Consensus the key

The alliance of the seven political parties stands in danger of unravelling. The SPA led Jana Andolan II, and has steered the course of the political transition thus far. Any break might mean the emergence of many roadblocks ahead. This peril seems to arise mainly from the failure of the three biggest parties to agree on a common name for first President of Nepal. This is despite the highly encouraging sign that there has been a broad agreement on almost all the issues raised by the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML as crucial to the formation of the next government — for instance, the change in certain provisions of the Interim Constitution, such as the requirement from a two-thirds majority to a simple one for

electing or removing Prime Minister, the restructuring of the YCL to make it a fully civilian political organisation, and progress on the question of adjustment of the People’s Liberation Army. Logically speaking, the political impasse should have been broken by now; it may soon, but, judging by certain indications, not necessarily by moving forward the politics of consensus, which runs through the political understandings, agreements and the Interim Constitution, in letter and spirit.

When the top political leaders of the three biggest parties had stressed the imperative of extending the SPA alliance even beyond the general election, the public had taken a favourbale view of it. Until the election, top leaders — Girija Prasad Koirala, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Prachanda — had shown a high degree of this understanding, and they had publicly announced that whatever the numerical positions of the alliance partners in the Constituent Assembly (CA), the next government would be composed of them all, just like the interim one. Such sentiment has been based on the realisation that consensus is essential for dealing with the daunting challenges and consolidating the political and other gains made by the people. At a time when there is also the need to take the emergent parties into confidence, any thought of the breakdown of the existing alliance is indeed depressing.

The need for consensus is much greater than the question of who becomes president, essentially a decorative post. The Congress and the CPN-UML have staked their claims, whereas the Maoists, despite their initial claim, have dropped it, except that they have a fear, exaggerated or not, that certain names for president, particularly from the major parties, are likely to create parallel power centres, impeding smooth governance and constitution-writing. Perhaps there may have been a touch of ego, a prestige issue. But the people expect the three parties to rise above their mutual suspicion and partisan calculations. As for the public, it is ready to accept any name if the Big Three agree. As this is not the time for political polarisation, it is sad that the NC or the CPN-Maoist should be threatening to sit in the opposition if disagreement persists over distribution of power. A collapse of the politics of consensus would mean that the rest of the transition will become less smooth. But consensus and collaboration are vital for completing the peace process successfully.