Editorial: The supremacy of the troika
It’s time the parliament moved ahead with a sense of urgency and made up for the lost time
In a democracy true to its name, the Parliament (the legislative), one of the three principal organs of the state, makes laws. Elected representatives voice concerns of the public in its hallowed chambers and make the other organ of the state, the executive, address them. Well-informed, engaging and enlightening discussions on every matter before it, including draft laws, make these chambers truly representative of the will of the people. Parliamentary debates in India and the United Kingdom, for example, show how the lawmakers hold their governments to account.
The judiciary has a very important role to play in a democracy. As the final interpreter of the Constitution, it checks the constitutionality of laws and keeps a tab on the government and the parliament from a moral high ground. More often than not, our own judiciary has shown how to do it. If its precedents are not enough, there are enough lessons to learn from the immediate neighborhood and beyond on how to tame a regime seeking to trample on civil liberties.
A constant judicial vigilance is necessary in a functioning democracy. This is also because the executive even seeks to bring the judiciary under its ambit through some sort of parliamentary control by violating judicial independence. The parliament often exhibits the tendency to do the bidding of a majority even at the expense of the larger interest of the public and the country it is supposed to serve, under pressure from the government of the day, in a blatant violation of the letter and the spirit of the charter. Who knows this better than the Nepali people, mute spectators to spectacles where a ready majority raises its hands automatically in support when a whip-wielding executive seeks to enforce its will in an audacious breach of the principles of separation of powers as well as checks and balances?
In young democracies in particular, the parliament often becomes a special-purpose vehicle designed to serve the executive and other powerful vested interests instead of taking them to task. This becomes easy when the opposition and the ruling parties come together to serve vested interests. The people pay the price when the executive seeks to move ahead by ignoring the concerns of the opposition raised in the House and the latter obstructs it in its desperate bid to have its way.
Recently, the main opposition obstructed the Parliament for days on end calling for a high-level commission to investigate a recent case of a huge gold consignment concealed in brake shoes passing through a high-security Tribhuvan International Airport. Before that, the party had obstructed the Parliament over the Prime Minister’s remarks about a transporter’s ‘great efforts’ toward elevating him to the coveted position. The opposition has every right to ask difficult questions and seek answers from the government, but is the House obstruction an effective way to hold the government accountable?
Notably, opposition parties other than the main opposition have accused the main opposition CPN-UML, Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Center) of holding the parliament hostage to fulfill vested interests. Secretive talks between the leadership of the three major parties ‘magically’ ending House stalemates suggest some comfy arrangements. ApEx has repeatedly raised the issue of the troika turning the Parliament into a rubber-stamp of sorts through its extensive coverage, as part of efforts to make democracy deliver.
Indeed, the leadership of the three parties could have done so much for the people grappling with challenges like rising market prices, shrinking job opportunities, endemic corruption, instability and calamities that are becoming more and more disastrous due to development activities undertaken with scant regard for the carrying capacity of the terrains. Their disastrous performance in a difficult situation will not be lost on a people they claim to be serving, day in and day out. Neither the government nor the main opposition nor any other force has the right to hold the legislative organ of the state hostage in its desperate bid to fulfill its overt or covert interests.
Sadly, even the Speaker and the President, the guardian of the Constitution, have appeared helpless in the face of repeated deadlocks. Summing up, all entities that constitute the parliament should learn lessons from repeated obstructions and make every effort to ensure its smooth functioning. The sovereign body has some crucial legislations pending, including those related to transitional justice and money-laundering. It’s time the parliament moved ahead with a sense of urgency and made up for the lost time.
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