At last, a way out

The major political parties continued the search for a ‘consensus’ government till the last hour yesterday, when by 5pm, the nomination papers for Prime Minister had to be filed. After the elusive ‘consensus’ till four months after the Constituent Assembly election and two and a half months after its first meeting, capped by the collapse of the 10-day efforts at consensus in response to the President’s invitation to the CPN-Maoist to form a consensual government, the play-acting to continue the search appeared to have been mainly for public consumption. Anyway, the government that will finally be formed now, after today’s election, will be under Article 38 (2) of the Interim Constitution on the basis of majority vote instead of a government of political consensus under Article 38 (1), as, after the lapse of the first option, the political process for the second option has been set in motion.

The Nepali Congress refused to join a CPN-Maoist-led government, finally, over who should get the Defence portfolio.

This will produce a coalition government without political consensus of the type seen during the time of the Interim Legislature-Parliament. Obviously, the CPN-Maoist has fielded its chairman Prachanda for the post of prime minister, supported by the CPN-UML and the MJF, and the NC its central leader and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

It seems virtually certain that, barring some last-minute switch of political stance that Nepalis have witnessed earlier in political alliances, Prachanda will be the first elected Prime Minister of republican Nepal. The new coalition will also enjoy a two-thirds majority, as the main alliance partners have made clear. That means some of the smaller parties in the CA will also be inducted into the new Cabinet. However, for a people who had expected

to see a coalition including all the major political parties according to the letter and spirit of the political understandings and agreements of the past, the decision of the NC to stay outside has been somewhat disappointing.

But the failure to forge such a consensus has been due largely to the two yardsticks employed by the NC to determine a power-sharing formula — one that applied when it led the government post-Jana Andolan II, and another when it became clear that

it would have to accept Maoist leadership if it wanted to take part in power. It is the sovereign right of the NC to decide to join or not to join a government. But, in all likelihood, none of the three current coalition partners — the CPN-M, the UML and the MJF — would object if the NC wanted to become part of the new government at any time during

the transitional period without, of course, insisting on getting Defence. And that would keep up the spirit of the political alliance formed since the signing of the 12-point accord between the then parliamentary parties and the CPN-Maoist.

This would also accord with the electoral pledge of the Nepali Congress and the other parties, stressing political consensus for transitional governance.

If that could not be possible, collaboration would still be needed to make the peace process complete and successful.