Crisis Decision Making under the State of Exception

Article excerpt


Three unexpected events occurring between 20 December 2006 and 16 January 2007 have raised the question of accessibility to the highest decision maker to express concern and influence policy in the country. The first was the meeting of the American Ambassador James F. Moriarty with Prime Minister Girija P. Koirala to "express serious concern over the Maoists' protest programmes and 'armed activities'" launched against the government's nomination of ambassadors. (1) The second was the turning back of the students without an audience with the prime minister against the earlier assurance of the meeting to submit a memorandum in relations to the appointment of Vice Chancellor at the Tribhuvan University that remains vacant for over last eight months. (2) The third was the violent protest unleashed by the Madhesi community against the Interim Constitution promulgated on 15 January 2007 demanding their rights to proper representation.

This narrative is a simple exposition of a critical facet of political elite behaviour pertaining to their accessibility and influence in decision making, public accountability and responsibility. The urgency to personally protest against the domestic events of a host country even hardly related to the "'interests" of the guest country is beyond the diplomatic brief, which could be interpreted only as high-handedness in manipulating and influencing the decision-making process of a weak and moribund government leadership. On the other hand, the neglect of a just cause and restriction to the accessibility to the leadership by the concerned people is the case of a gross irresponsibility to tile national constituency to whom the leadership belongs. And the promulgation of the Interim Constitution without adequately reflecting the already agreed modality of the state is ineptitude on the part of the political leaderships with demonstrated opacity in decision making.

The seriousness of the first event is a hint at the exceptional situation created by the Maoists rampage after the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Accord. By raising the Maoists' bogey people in Nepal have been told that they are living in exceptional time requiring cautionary and exceptional power to deal with the situation. As the future is indefinite and the coming crunch probably would be more horrendous than expected, they should be prepared to face the eventuality. The second event is a simple indication of difficulties in state-society relationships while democratizing the sphere of governance in response to public interests. The third event is the glaring case of the leaderships' incompetence in crisis decision making igniting the anticipated problem. For the government established after the Jana Andolan H and thriving on the humble support of the people the Madhesi movement has become a real test case for its performance aptitude and democratic credibility. Actually the Madhesi movement is posing as a test for institutionalizing democracy. If the process of institutionalizing democracy is inadequate, it will collapse, as the Maoist insurgency has earlier led to the collapse of the post-1990 democratic institutions. The continuing disruption of normalcy caused by the movement in the Nepal Tarai and its implications in the country as a whole suggests the margin has now triumphed at the centre of decision making forcing the government to abide by the consensual commitment previously made. But the enforced decision, however, has no mutual compliance. The focus of the government apparently is on crisis diffusion rather than crisis prevention. Hence the country is in crisis defined in medical term as a condition suspended in unpredictability in the state of an organism.

State of Exception

Nepal is presently marred by two fundamental challenges. First, Nepal is in crisis that has continued unabated. Second, it is in a state of exception. Crisis is related here to a context where the political leaderships have not been able to respond properly to the challenges posed by the new political dispensations to make a complete rupture with the past practices of the statecraft. …