The political scenario in Nepal keeps shifting unexpectedly during government formation. The recent events regarding the citizenship of Rabi Lamichane, who campaigned for political and social transformations, highlights the shortcomings related to good governance and the judiciary in the country. Nepali people want answers to these questions: If Rabi Lamichane was indeed not a Nepali citizen, then how did he get a ticket to form a political party, field candidates, contest, cast his own vote and also win from his constituency. How could he be appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of the country?
In keeping with his promises, after coming to power, Lamichane opened up cases that had been pushed to the back stage. He reopened the probe of pending rape cases, instructed the arrest of parliamentarians who had criminal records and often gave speeches during parliamentary sessions that he would look into corruption and bring justice to the victims and punishments to the perpetrators. He also requested all other parliamentarians not to pressurise him or create obstructions in his work. There were several speculations that in his quest to retain his popularity and attempt to fulfil his promise to his electorates he could be making a lot of enemies among the powerful people within the country.
Turn of events
In an unexpected turn of events, Rabi Lamichane was declared a non-Nepali on 27 January 2023 by a ruling of Nepal’s Supreme Court. This automatically made him lose his parliamentarian positions including his DPM and home ministry. He also lost the Party President position of Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) he had established on 21 June 2022, just five months before the 2022 elections in Nepal. As he had already given up his US citizenship, he suddenly became a stateless person with protection by the UN Human Rights protocol of allowing a country-less person all of the human rights conditions, except for his political participation.
But just two days after he was declared a non-Nepali by the Supreme Court of Nepal, he regained his citizenship on 29th January 2023! Now, he is once more the President of RSP and is looking into ways of getting back his position of home minister and DPM. This whole episode of Lamichane’s rise in political power, the declaration of him as a stateless person and now his re-establishment as a citizen of his country of origin reminds me of Shakespeare’s drama title “Much Ado About Nothing”. It also raises questions regarding the legal process. Not only that, why hadn’t Lamichane himself made sure his citizenship status was as per the law of the country before he contested?
If he could get the Nepali citizenship in two days after he was ousted from the status, shouldn’t he have done that before registering RSP and contesting in the elections? The Nepali people are wondering why the Election Commission was so flippant in their decision to allow Lamichane to contest in the elections. If the Supreme Court ousted him after he became the country’s DPM and Home Minister, should some legal action be taken against the Election Commission team who gave him the ticket to contest without fact checking?
Here the role of media can also be questioned. Why didn’t media investigate properly and uncover the truth? This actually reflects a couple of trends in Nepal. While the youth and the new upcoming faces in Nepali politics can be seen to be no different than the old stalwarts who are accused by the younger generation of being power hungry, the overall good governance and the truth unravelling approach of the media can also be seen to be surficial at certain incidents. The rise-fall-rise episode of Lamichane has become an almost comical incident that could be recorded as a comedy of error.
Now coming to the most recent political scenario, it is time to elect the third President and Vice President of Republic Nepal. The election Commission has declared to hold the presidential election on March 9, 2023 and the Vice Presidential election on March 17, 2023. The 2015 Constitution of Nepal has a provision of electing the president and vice president via an electoral college consisting of members of both Houses of the federal parliament and all seven provincial assemblies. The weights of federal and provincial lawmakers are different.
Both these positions are ceremonial. The political parties in power are now in the exercise of identifying the suitable candidates to sit on these positions who can take impartial judgement when the time comes for them to advise the government or to impose a veto. The three major parties are now jockeying to field in their preferred candidates for these two positions without giving due emphasis to the need of the country. There has been a so-called bartering within the governing coalition on who gets these two seats.
Apart from being the biggest political party in the parliament today, the Nepali Congress, which is not in the governing role due to their weak negotiations before the government was formed instead of taking the seat of a strong opposition, is now eyeing for the Presidential position, too. Instead of retaining this bartering system, a strategy of identifying people with good educational backgrounds and capacity of taking the right decision at the right time together with having the track record of serving the country before being fielded to top government positions should be given the priority. Deserving candidates should reflect the gender and social diversity, and it is time to stop comedy of errors in politics once and for all.
(Namrata Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)