Sunday, February 23, 2014

Flashback: Consensus By Any Other Name

For starters, can we dispense with the Great Myth?
No, Nepalis, in their collective wisdom, did not elect the Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) as the two largest parties in a fractured constituent assembly so that they might work together to achieve some amorphous consensus on our behalf.
The electoral verdict was a mere reflection of that weird amalgamation of the fluid popular mood, mixed electoral system and disparate appeals of candidates and parties in the common consciousness.
So if the UML wants to put the presidency to a new test against the new realities of the day and the Nepali Congress doesn’t, all this should be seen as pure politicking. If the UML demands an equal share of power and privilege, in view of the narrow gap between the Big Two, the Nepali Congress is well within its rights to say no.
Few scholars, scribes or citizens had divined the imperative of a second constituent assembly and enjoined the rest of us to prepare the paraphernalia. The peace process was no elaborate road map brilliantly conceived or flawlessly executed. Let’s not forget that the whole thing began with a 12-point agreement between two principal signatories who actually did not deem it necessary to affix their signatures jointly on a piece of paper.
It has long ceased to defy the imagination why the international community would want to continue legitimizing a march toward some nebulous newness where the destination is hazier than the road. Yet this is where we stand at this juncture of history.
The presidency is just the beginning of a plethora of questions that must be addressed in light of the new political dynamics. On drafting the new constitution, should the assembly start from scratch or resume from where its predecessor had left off? The Maoists want to preserve every iota of what they believe is their legacy and build political capital for the future. Those in the mainstream counseling that the presence of the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal must be taken into account are equally preparing for the prestidigitations ahead.
As we proceed, we can pretty much write off constitutional niceties at every turn. The politics of it would be more defiant. And let’s not even consider how profoundly popular acceptance of the final document will come to rest on the political realities of that day.
Nevertheless, those who won the most seats in the assembly have the greatest responsibility to smooth the way ahead. And, rest assured, they will find a way to do so. Last-minute late-night numbered agreements mediated by shadowy foreign hands have become standard operating procedure. Sure, Nepalis will continue to grumble and grieve. If we can’t do anything about it, as they say, we’ve learned to enjoy it. At a minimum, this default mode allows us to detach ourselves from the process, blame our politicians, and then keep electing them.
It seems our politicians, too, are learning to enjoy the gig. The party that boycotted the election and vowed to sabotage it is now signaling its acquiescence to a respectful presence in the assembly and government. The victors give that sentiment a sympathetic hearing. Everybody gets something to get on with their lives.
Come to think of it, it’s consensus by any other name.

Originally posted on December 1, 2013