With the conclusion of the elections to the President and Vice President, the process for Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to seek a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives, expanding the cabinet and addressing the protracted issue of transitional justice has begun. Prime Minister Prachanda is scheduled to take a vote of trust in parliament today (March 20). As a 10-party alliance has thrown its weight behind him, he is expected to be able to secure a vote of confidence comfortably in the House. NC, CPN-Maoist Centre, Janata Samajbadi Party, CPN-Unified Socialist, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, Janmat Party, Aam Janata Party, Nagarik Unmukti Party, Nepal Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha are the ruling coalition partners. Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) is also supporting the government.
After having appointed as the Prime Minister on December 25 last year, Prachanda had won a vote of confidence in parliament on January 10 this year. He had garnered an overwhelming support of 268 out of the 270 lawmakers who were present in the House. It was the highest number of votes a prime minister has ever got in a vote of confidence in parliament. But the relationship between CPN-Maoist Centre and CPN-UML turned sour after the former decided to vote for Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Paudel in the presidential poll. That step resulted in the collapse of the seven-party alliance led by UML in just two months. The UML had intended to get its presidential nominee elected by any means. Quitting the Prachanda-led government, UML and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) announced withdrawal of their support to it. The constitutional provision makes it mandatory for a prime minister to hold a vote of trust in the House of Representatives again if any political party that has stood in support of the government earlier pulls out of its backing.
Prime Minister Prachanda is planning to expand his cabinet after securing a vote of confidence in the House. Although Prachanda has already started holding consultations with the ruling alliance members in regard to power sharing, they have yet to finalise it. He will hold further discussions with them on this matter immediately after testing the floor. However, agreeing upon the power sharing pact for the governing alliance is easier said than done considering a rising number of ministerial aspirants in each of the political parties belonging to the ruling alliance. It is understandable why the PM has made up his mind to seek a vote of confidence prior to expanding the cabinet. Leaders of different political parties are reported to have been lobbying hard with their leadership to provide them with a ‘lucrative’ ministry.
The Prime Minister needs to induct experienced, committed and visionary political leaders with good track record into his cabinet so as to ensure a desired performance of the government. This is also necessary for establishing good governance and making the service delivery system more efficient. No citizen can feel a perception of change unless services are delivered in a smooth manner. As the government has been under a huge pressure to conclude the remaining tasks of the longstanding peace process as soon as possible, it tabled an amendment Bill on the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons and Truth and Reconciliation Act, 2014 on Sunday (March 19). Despite being a major component of the peace process, the transitional justice has been in the shadow with no political parties making their sincere efforts to deliver justice to the victims of the decade-long armed conflict and their families.
However, the ruling alliance now seems to be more determined to accomplishing the residual works of the peace process as per the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed between the state and the then CPN (Maoist). The government aims to get the bill passed through a fast-track so as to move the transitional justice process ahead. But some sections of the society have called for extensive discussions on the proposed bill. They have also suggested that that those involved in grave human rights violations should not be given amnesty. The judiciary and the international community have also been in favour of bringing the perpetrators of heinous crimes such as murder, intimidation and sexual abuse to justice.
Two transitional justice apparatuses — Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — were formed in 2015 in line with the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act, 2014. These two bodies have also made some achievements. But they have failed to deliver justice to the victims and their families due to some legal obstacles. A dearth of political will has equally been responsible for such an inordinate delay in settling this penetrating issue.
Reviving the national economy is another great challenge before the government. A recent report unveiled by the Office of the Comptroller General has shown that the government’s budget deficit during the first eight months of the current fiscal year (2022/23) exceeded Rs. 156.44 billion. The government has spent Rs. 779.23 billion of its budget as of mid-March this year but it was able to collect revenue worth Rs. 622.78 billion only. If this trend goes on, the nation will plunge into a serious economic problem.
Over the past several months, the Banks and Financial Institutions (BFIs) have been going through a liquidity crisis. Bank interest rates have gone up alarmingly. This has continued to trouble the manufacturing sector, export trade and share market. However, the foreign exchange reserve has been in a better position. The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has stated that the existing foreign exchange reserve could be sufficient for the nation to manage the import for the next 10 months. Meanwhile, BFIs have been in panic due to the black soot campaign launched by controversial medical entrepreneur Durga Prasai and his team. This form of anarchic activity may lead BFIs to the loss of confidence, worsening the economic situation. So, the government must tackle this anarchism immediately.
(Dahal is an executive editor of this daily.)