A legitimate question

It is right to seek a compromise formula by extending the special session of the parliament by a couple of days. The stalemate continues between the Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist over the questions of whether the interim parliament or the constituent assembly (CA) should settle the future of the monarchy and whether the country should go to the polls on the basis of full proportional representation or the mixed electoral system. Both sides appear to stick to their positions — so far. Countries highly important to Nepal seem to be firm in the view that the CA alone should clinch the issue. This factor considerably influences the stances of Nepali political parties, including the Congress and the CPN-UML, apart from their own predilections. So, remote looks the possibility of outright republican declaration.

The Maoists have sounded positive about compromising on one demand if the other is fully met. Probably, there will not be so much external opposition to whether the electoral system is partly or fully proportional as to whether it is pre- or post-election republican declaration. Therefore, for any realistic resolution of the crisis, it seems, the agreement should be sought on full proportionality. A parliamentary republican resolution would be just a collective commitment of the seven political parties to republicanism; in fact, individually, each one has already made republicanism its chief election plank. An alternative might be found if the Maoists dropped both their demands, but this option is highly unlikely to click, because the Maoists are not seen to be in a position to go that far – and now.

Some Nepali politicians and some foreign diplomats have raised questions about the legitimacy of the interim government, citing the failure to hold the CA polls on November 22. They did not, however, bring up this issue when the scheduled elections could not take place in June, since not doing so, apparently, suited their political convenience then. No foreign government can deliver a verdict on the legitimacy or otherwise of the government of Nepal or challenge the competence of the interim parliament. This right is the sole preserve of the sovereign Nepali people. Only they, if they so wish, can derecognise this government — through another mass movement. However, it is true that successive failures to keep promises will weaken the government’s public credibility. None the less, the question of legitimacy would come across powerfully if the Maoists and the six parties parted ways, each side laying a claim to legitimacy. But this would cause a new confrontation, with potentially dangerous consequences for the country. Such a scenario could render all understandings and agreements reached between them so far redundant, and the Interim Constitution lame. All this might then have the effect of derailing the entire peace process, of which the CA election is a crucial part. It is hard to believe that the architects of the peace process would allow it to break apart towards the end of the road – over the mere issue of full or half proportionality.