A fortnight of lull, or change?

A fortnight of lull, or change?

One incident that the world would remember from this fortnight is that the Muslim Brotherhood politician, Mohammed Morsi has been sworn in as Egyptian President. The country’s first civilian, democratically elected president.  A matter of rejoice for the residents of one of the oldest civilizations on the planet.

Earlier, the ruler in Egypt was ‘placed’, even as the country was declared republic in 1953. Whether we talk of General Muhammed Naguib, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat or Hosni Mubarak, were all in a way or the other imposed upon Egyptians – no matter which world power they showed their allegiance to.

There could be debate on whether there has been real change in the country or not. Analysts say Morsi has a difficult task ahead as he will have to sort out a difficult relationship with an unshakable military. They are of the view that the regime of former President Mubarak is still largely intact and many in it will not be too happy to co-operate with the new power center. However, the change that is visible is for real. The power has definitely shifted and is closer to people than earlier.

Epypt President: Mohamed Morsi

What Egyptians see today is not an overnight change. Not many would have forgotten the Mubarak regime overthrown last February after mass pro-democracy demonstrations, instigated and kept alive by social media. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg, only the symbol that is easily visible. The change began much longer than that, even if it was dormant. The seeds of change were laid nine years ago, in 2003, when the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya, was launched. This was a movement to oppose the Mubarak regime and to demand and establish democratic reforms and greater civil liberties in Egypt.

The mass demonstrations 8 years later were only a result of that.

Back home in Nepal, I would remember this fortnight, for Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav saying that country does not have a constitutional vacuum. When the head of the state has to clarify that there is no constitutional vacuum, it is a worry. For it proves that all may not be well with the power structure of the nation. It also explains that the question of vacuum is being raised a little too often and the first citizen is compelled to answer that. That itself is a reason to worry.

The very point that we have a President should be a symbol that power is closer to the people that what we’ve read in history. But that may not be as simple as it sounds. For, the President, in recent past, has tried to convince almost every political force that he’s not going to cross the boundaries of constitution at any point. However reassuring that may sound, this also shows that the guardian of the nation does not see himself powerful enough to do anything. In what is termed as the President ‘coordinating’ with political parties to resolve the deadlock, one does get a feeling that he’s not proactive enough.

Will he Speak?
Nepal President: Ram Baran Yadav

It is true that Constituent Assembly expiry without promulgating a constitution was not foreseen. And we don’t really have guidelines set in the interim constitution about how to move ahead in such a condition. Some say reinstatement of CA could be one way forward, to draft a constitution, as there’s no body that would do so. But that doesn’t have much legal basis either.  We’ve already heard from Supreme Court that the Prime Minister is a caretaker one. And as there doesn’t seem legal basis (unless there is consensus among the political parties for a national government), for another government, one doesn’t know whether the next savior comes from. If this is not constitutional vacuum, I would wonder what is. At best, the present condition has given a fertile ground for the parties and politicians for posturing. During the lull, everyone is trying to gain attention.

When Prime Minister returned from Brazil, many analysts had expected him to come with olive branch and talk of consensus. The moment PM Baburam Bhattarai landed, he ridiculed the opposition for demanding his resignation. It is difficult to imagine why the analysts expected the PM to come with olive branch (given that he met Indian Prime Minister during the sidelines in Rio Meet), and difficult to comprehend why the PM looked so angry against the opposition. Was he not the one throwing tirade at Madhav Kumar Nepal when he was the Prime Minister? Did he deserve the same angry remark or ridicule then?

By going confrontational, the Prime Minister has made sure that the lull would continue. The stalemate is going to be elongated. That would hardly do much to improve the morale of the public. And we already know how depressing past 17 years – barring a couple of years during people’s movement and CA election – have been for Nepalis.

The PM, who had so far shown his unconditional support to election, has shown some change though.  Lately he’s started talking that CA could be revived if Supreme Court and other parties agree for the same. This definitely shows the shift, probably hinting towards his willingness for consensus. He’s talked about consensus for long now, it’s about time he tries to become proactive about forging consensus, even if it means reaching out to the ones who dissent him.

The President said, “There is no constitutional vacuum.”

The fear would be: What if he means it for real, gets too active and crosses a few boundaries that he hasn’t so far, to prove this line?

The article appeared in a fortnightly published from Australia – The Kantipur Times – on 4 July 2012

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