Two chairs for Regmi

Andolan season" seems to be back in Nepal. As Khil Raj Regmi was taking oath of office as chairperson of the proposed 11-member electoral cabinet on Thursday, supporters of 22 political parties opposing an incumbent chief justice as the chief of the executive were clashing with the police outside the president's office. Regmi's only solace was congratulatory messages from the US, UK, India, China and the wider international community, wishing him success in holding elections to the constituent assembly by June 21, a deadline agreed upon by the four major parties.

Still, holding elections and institutionalising democracy appear very difficult for Regmi's government. The odds weigh heavily against him. The four big parties and their leadership supporting Regmi are thoroughly discredited evident from the fact that they couldn't offer a political alternative to Baburam Bhattarai. The other 22 parties have already hit the streets, demanding either Regmi's exit or his resignation as CJ. Moreover, Regmi faces an intense legal battle as there are half-a-dozen cases pending before the Supreme Court, some challenging his appointment as PM on the ground that it's in violation of the principle of separation of powers. At least two cases challenge the way President Ram Baran Yadav amended 25 different clauses of the interim constitution at one stroke, exercising a special constitutional provision expected to be used sparingly.

Regmi decided on the composition of the bench to hear some of these cases and, much against his earlier promise, took oath as the executive chief, even when the case was sub-judice. "This is a black day in the history of Nepal's independent judiciary and democracy," said Anup Raj Sharma, a former SC chief justice. The International Commission of Jurists asked Regmi to at least resign as CJ to ensure judicial independence. The Nepal Bar Association was more stridently critical. In brief, the hope expressed by the international community didn't confirm to the visible and latent despair in the country. And there are fears that the CJ, one more guinea pig in the political experiment over the last eight years, will deliver no miracle, nor even the minimum stability and political order required.

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