Tuesday, April 24, 2007

King’s Ceremony & Democracy’s Desperation

King Gyanendra chose to offer the monarchy’s traditional Baisakh prayers to Goddess Dakshinkali on the anniversary of the day he breathed new life into a legislature that stripped him of all political power.
Regardless of whether the palace secretariat’s scheduling was deliberate, it certainly conformed to the enigma being celebrated. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, arguably the most powerful prime minister the country ever had or will ever see, needed, among other things, to assure the people that no one could “usurp” the gains of the year.
Maoist supremo Prachanda amplified the desperation several decibels by demanding that the country be declared a republic “before it is too late”.
The insecurity the dancing on the streets couldn’t shield is emblematic of the improvisation the peace process has become. For the past year, the palace has provided the sole adhesive for the ruling alliance. Now that doesn’t seem sufficient to cover the conflicts in each of its constituents.
The Nepali Congress feels the government has become a Maoist puppet. Many Maoists, for their part, seem to find the peace process another Koirala-led conspiracy against the communists. The Unified Marxist-Leninists, true to tradition, are eager to play both sides, but don’t seem to know how.
Constituent assembly, referendum, interim legislature, the streets – the principal political contenders can’t figure out how best to oust the monarchy. The palace could buy off enough elected representatives before the first sitting of the constituent assembly. A referendum might go in favor of the monarchy. Even if the interim legislature voted to abolish the monarchy, would the people do their bit by thronging the streets again?
Each moment of vacillation, the ruling parties recognize, works to the palace’s advantage.
If anything, the Dakshinkali trip showed how comfortable King Gyanendra already is in the role of a ceremonial monarch. This must have only deepened the desperation of his detractors.