Published On: February 26, 2023 07:45 AM NPT By: Republica | @RepublicaNepal
Despite the political parties coming to a consensus on their respective presidential candidates and registering their candidacies, there is a palpable lack of enthusiasm and interest surrounding these candidates. They have failed to inspire a sense of hope or excitement in the people, and their names are not associated with any particular sense of love or respect beyond their immediate party factions. In fact, it's safe to say that these candidates fall far short of what is required to fill the highest political position in the Nepali state. Their lack of charisma and vision for the future has left the public feeling underwhelmed and disengaged from the political process. In short, the candidates have not been able to create the kind of positive momentum that is necessary to energize and inspire the Nepali people.
Nepal's constitution clearly outlines the role of the president as a ceremonial head of state. However, in reality, the political parties have distorted this position and transformed it into what appears to be the executive head of the country. The parties have made it seem as though having the prime minister, the country’s constitutional executive head, from their own party or alliance is not enough, and they are now vying for their own presidential candidate. Now all major parties wish their candidate to be the president. We have seen two presidents so far. We know that both these presidents have overstepped their constitutional boundaries. After the new constitution came into effect on 20 September 2015, it was expected that the parties would not repeat the past mistakes. But these expectations haven’t been met.
While the role of the president in Nepal is intended to be purely ceremonial, in practice, it has become more 'important' than it should be. The country's latest constitution was crafted with the aim of preventing a repeat of the past incident where the king, as the constitutional head of state, refused to abide by the constitutional boundaries. However, the way political parties have interpreted and implemented the constitution in practice has resulted in a situation where the president's role has become more significant than intended. We have seen that happen during the terms of the two presidents we have had so far - Dr Ram Baran Yadav from the Nepali Congress and Bidya Devi Bhandari from the CPN-UML. Unfortunately, the tug-of-war between the parties over the presidency has only intensified, as they realize the potential power and influence the 'ceremonial' president can wield. In fact, we have already seen that this has led to a situation where the decisions of the government were derailed by the actions of the president, undermining the constitutional framework.
In recent weeks, the leaders of Nepal's major political parties have been consumed with the task of securing the presidency for their preferred candidate. Their frantic efforts demonstrate the importance they attach to this ceremonial post, which they seem to value even more highly than forming the government. This degradation and devaluation of the presidency is a worrying development that undermines the country's constitutional order. It is clear that the parties are more interested in securing a president who will do their bidding than in upholding the principles of democracy and the rule of law. They want someone who will act as their 'yes man or woman' rather than a neutral figure who will faithfully execute the duties of the presidency as defined by the constitution and the country's legal traditions. This is a dangerous trend that threatens the integrity of Nepal's democratic institutions.
In contrast to our country's narrow focus on selecting ‘hardcore politicians’ as the head of state, India has seen great scientists and social activists rise to the presidency. These individuals have not only upheld the dignity of the post, but also earned the respect of Indian society long after their terms have ended. Unfortunately, our country's current and former presidents, as well as the announced candidates for the next presidency, demonstrate a lack of vision and imagination in our selection process. It is therefore unrealistic to expect any of these individuals, regardless of who is elected, to fulfill the duties of the presidency without being affected by the political agendas of their former political parties.
The ‘dirty games’ seen in the run-up to the presidential election slated for March 9 show that the politicians are only concerned about obtaining and maintaining power. And their willingness to make and break alliances for the same is nothing but ‘political prostitution’ where welfare of the people is not a priority. This is a dangerous disregard for the greater good.
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