Do it with grace

By this week, the full and final results of the election to the Constituent Assembly will be declared, and within 21 days of that, the CA will hold its first meeting. This meeting will have to implement the declaration of Nepal as a republic. The next transitional government will also have to be formed, reflecting the popular verdict. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are finding it difficult to come to terms with the emergence of the CPN-Maoist as the single largest party, because they had not expected this kind of election outcome. That is why top Congress and CPN-UML leaders had been stressing before April 10 that whichever party might win a majority, the next government would be a coalition, with the natural understanding that the largest party would lead it. Now, a number of central leaders of both these parties are trying to make coalition and cooperation conditional.

The Congress and the CPN-UML are yet to make their positions clear. Analysts have put various interpretations on the voices coming from these parties. Some say these conditions may be used as bargaining chips for better terms for participation in power; others think these may be signs of their future non-cooperation with the CPN-Maoist, and so on. Whatever the truth, the Congress and CPN-UML should participate in power by way of their right, as well as their duty, based as it is on the letter and spirit of the various agreements, understandings, and the Interim Constitution. The new parties, such as the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum, should also be invited — and encouraged — to join in. But they are under no such obligation as the Congress and the CPN-UML are.

Extraneous demands will only prove counter-productive because they are difficult to defend — such as, the Prime Minister should refuse to make way for the formation of a new government, the same person cannot head the two armies at the same time, and the YCL should be disbanded. The electorate have made their choice clear in full knowledge of these things, and no political party can now obstruct government formation according to the people’s mandate just because it thinks otherwise. The CA period will still be a transitional one when all outstanding problems need to be settled, including the question of the adjustment of the People’s Liberation Army. The political parties had shown no willingness to settle this question during the two-year pre-election period. Whatever the political rhetoric, the fact, one make like it or not, is that the CPN-Maoist now has the upper hand politically. But it is not a time for thinking in this manner, but in terms of cooperation and understanding, discussion, and problem resolution. The most important task for the CA is to give the Nepalis, who have fought hard for a constituent assembly for 58 years, the best constitution possible. The political parties will also be well advised to try to have the new constitution ready, say, in one year, instead of the stipulated two years, and hold the first general election under a republican Nepal sooner. In the meantime, the Congress and the CPN-UML should each try to re-invent themselves to win a majority.