Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Benefits Of Being On The Fringe

We have got a real problem here when, in terms of sheer numbers, there are more fringe parties than there are those driving the political agenda.
Now, Maila Baje doesn’t want to hear any growls or grunts. The four major constituents of our satrapy remain the best-organized outfits and would probably dominate the outcome of the upcoming elections. Yet, by last count, 33 parties are resisting the quartet’s obdurate campaign to take the country wherever they are.
Granted, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which broke away from the once-formidable organization that waged that romanticized 10-year spiral of death and destruction, cannot be dismissed as fringe. They still have the muscle and money to enforce their will. The other 32 are thus mere followers in an alliance of convenience.
Most of these smaller parties will probably never be able to garner enough collective electoral strength to impose their agenda, even if they were to cobble together one. But, if history is any guide, they do have the collective power to thwart the agendas of others. And that is what is becoming scarier by the day in these creepy times.
The notion of change remains popular until you ask people what the term really means to them. Everyone loves his or her own version of transformation. But they seem to revile far more deeply what others expect change to mean.
Everybody has all kinds of solutions for the country’s real and imagined problems. The basic problem is, each one us wants exclusive rights to implement our own solutions. And when we realize we can’t have that, then we embark on the second-best course: share the littlest with the fewest.
So Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi gets to become head of the interim election council because no real politician wanted any other member of his/her fraternity to succeed Dr. Baburam Bhattarai.
Still, we’re left arguing whether Regmi will end up becoming a weak reflection of discredited political parties or turn into a purveyor of something entirely sinister.
Critics want him to quit as chief justice to ensure free and fair elections. Where do notions like separation of powers even come in when the larger process is already being driven by absolutism and imperiousness?
Consider the fallout. Political parties that ordinarily would have been talking about winning comfortable majorities on their own are busy contemplating the most fruitful alliances. Regmi, meanwhile, gets to assert that he would be able to announce progress toward elections only when his opponents cease their campaign of disruption.
President Ram Baran Yadav, for his part, is emboldened to voice dissatisfaction with a head of government who is barely three days in office. The external sponsors of the current formula continue to get to pit the president against prime minister, ensuring that neither could accumulate institutional robustness that could prove deleterious to non-Nepalis down the line.
As such, each day wasted in acrimony and animosity deals another blow to the credibility of the poll results even before the first votes have been campaigned for, much less cast. And it’s in that hostile expanse where a bloated fringe has the greatest room for maneuver.
Call them fringe at our own peril.