Parliamentary system, they say, gives two governments to the voters at one go: one is the government that takes over the reins of power and the other the government-in-waiting.
The government that takes over power performs in accordance with the commitments made to the people. The parliamentary system expects that the government works for the people and their benefits.
But the parties that assume powers do not necessarily always abide by these democratic ideals. They often don't do so going by our own experience. The government has its own interests and compulsions, and the leaders of the parties also have their own agendas and interests. They often put their own agendas above the interests of the people and the country. The government prevails over the people and their fundamental rights at such times, and tries to curtail the people's rights to serve its own interests.
The voters in parliamentary democracy, therefore, also elect the main opposition party or the government-in-waiting to stop such despotic whims of the government. Parliamentary system is such a system of balance that puts the strongest party or coalition in power, and the next strongest party in the opposition so that the despotic whims of the government are challenged; it can strongly stand in the House for the people's rights and their daily lives, and compliance of the Constitution and laws to stop those in power from abusing the Constitution and the laws.
The ruling party also fears the opposition party, aware that it is the government-in-waiting. The ruling party is always alert about the possibility of the people bringing it down from power and putting the main opposition party in power in the next election.
Nepali Congress (NC), which calls itself the defender of parliamentary democracy, has demolished this beautiful balance of power inherent in the parliamentary system.
NC President and Parliamentary Party Leader Sher Bahadur Deuba has shirked the immense role and responsibilities of the main opposition party to participate in the unholy wagering for power. Setopati reminds him that the politicians that run away from the august role of the main opposition leader also do not have any moral grounds to take over the reins of power tomorrow.
Having contested the election forging an electoral alliance with the promise of forming the government from the same coalition, Deuba failed to give the government promised to the people. His greed for power was mainly to blame for the unraveling of that coalition after he broke his promise to make CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal prime minister (PM) first and tried to become PM instead, thereby forcing Dahal to take refuge at Balkot. Deuba has again started to wager for power after a new ruling coalition was formed comprising CPN-UML, Maoist Center and five other parties.
Deuba and those close to him seem to have hoped for Maoist support during the presidential election for now, and aspired for eventually breaking the current coalition in the long run. The way in which NC leader Ram Chandra Paudel has openly defended the decision to give vote of confidence to Dahal hints as much. The way Paudel has been abandoning his ideals for personal interests in recent times is appalling.
Dahal also seems to want to have the cake and eat it too by acquiring support from the two parties larger than his. He reached Deuba's new residence at Dhumbarahi after going to KP Sharma Oli's at Balkot as per that strategy.
It is not hard to see through Dahal's strategy of keeping his post safe scaring Oli by showing Deuba and vice versa. The course of this strategy, however, will end after the presidential election. He must choose one out of NC and UML in the presidential election.
NC has deviated from the spirit of the parliamentary system of either forming the government or playing a strong role of opposition respecting the people's mandate at a time when the system has come under vehement attack, and the limits and dignity of democracy have been increasingly crossed by everyone.
Our Constitution has not authorized the PM to dissolve the House as long as the final alternative to give the government remains. But Oli twice dissolved the House crossing the limits of the Constitution that he himself prepared with wanton abandon, and the Supreme Court rightly reinstated the House deeming the dissolution unconstitutional on both the occasions.
But Oli shamelessly tried to defend his unconstitutional step of dissolving the House from the rostrum of the very sovereign House on Monday and Tuesday.
On the other hand, President Bidya Devi Bhandari has repeatedly put herself above the Constitution and Parliament. The Constitution has not given her the right to obstruct any work of the Cabinet or defy its decisions. But Bhandari has been sitting on two ordinances passed by the Cabinet. By refusing to authenticate a bill passed by Parliament, she has behaved in a manner to suggest she is above the sovereign Parliament elected by the people.
Oli, who himself flouted the Constitution, and his party have publicly defended the president’s actions. UML has lost the moral right to protest if a president elected with the support of another party were to disobey the decisions of a government under its leadership tomorrow.
The moral turpitude seen in parties who are major proponents of this system and Constitution during such attacks on the Constitution and the system has become a matter of great concern.
Parliamentary system becomes strong only when its major stakeholders agree to stay within its boundaries regardless of whether they are in power or out of power, and when they remain devoted to protecting the essence of the system. Those who are the first to violate the Constitution and break the system at the slightest opportunity are the biggest threat to parliamentary system and this Constitution. Unfortunately, Congress has also joined their ranks today.
Nepali Congress is constantly becoming weaker, both morally and in terms of public support, during the period with the ever power-hungry Deuba as its president.
In the 2017 general election Nepali Congress became the second-largest party in terms of popular votes for the first time in Nepal’s political history. President Deuba defended himself saying UML finished ahead of them on popular votes because of the left alliance even though the popular votes of Nepali Congress had increased.
There was no left alliance in this year’s election. UML had split. CPN (Unified Socialist), which had splintered from UML, received nearly 300,000 votes. But UML still became the largest party in terms of popular votes, finishing ahead of Congress by more than 150,000 votes.
NC has been losing the grounds to form a government on its own in recent times due to gradual erosion of its political base. The grand old party looks doomed to losing even the status of main opposition party looking at the people's revulsion toward the NC leadership and its recent misdeeds.
The lawmakers in the party who have yet to lose conscience must, therefore, seriously review the role of NC. They should play the role of a strong opposition in the House relinquishing the rat race for power in the current difficult situation for the parliamentary system if they have even an iota of historical responsibilities of the party. Play that role for safeguarding the people's rights and their interests, at least conserve a party to pin the people's hopes on if they lose trust in the parties in power to ensure that they don't give up on the parliamentary system.