Middle ground

The main political parties are haggling for the best terms for themselves in the forthcoming governing arrangement. Non-Maoist parties have laid down some pre-conditions for any collaboration with the CPN-Maoist. Though the single largest party, the CPN-M is in no position to muster the two-thirds support in the parliament without their cooperation. However, other parties — mainly the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum — do not want to back up the CPN-M to form the next government without getting concessions, such as the power to elect or remove head of government by a 51 per cent instead of the existing two-thirds majority. Meanwhile, the NC, the UML and the MJF have reached agreement on some important issues, such as the provision of a

‘ceremonial’ president and vice president. The Maoists have some reservations, for instance, against the possibility of ‘creating two power centres’ with separate president and prime minister.

Both the Maoist and the other major parties will have to work together or there will be no government. So, both sides should seek middle ground. Non-Maoist parties would want to be able to remove prime minister if they so chose. The Maoists think the insertion of the simple-majority requirement would lead to government changes in violation of the consensual approach of governance adopted in the understandings and agreements starting from the 12-point pact onwards, including in the Interim Constitution. To take into account the concerns of both the sides, it may be necessary to settle for the kind of majority less than two-thirds. It might be a good idea to consider putting the required percentage somewhere between 51% and two-thirds — say 55% or 60% — as it would serve the interests of both and make agreement easier too.

As consensus is the central tenet of the transitional politics of the peace process, there needs also to be in place a provision that stipulates that no-trust motion will not be moved at least for a given period, say one year, (under the 1990, it was six months, so also is the restriction under the Interim Constitution), and that moving such a motion will have to meet certain specific conditions relating, in particular, to the upholding of the peace process and democracy. Otherwise, the feature of simple majority would be highly likely to degenerate into games of making and unmaking governments for petty selfish or partisan interests, thereby overturning the politics of consensus, threatening the peace process and impeding constitution making. Regarding the question of president or head of state, the post should be purely a ceremonial one with no real power, to avoid creating another power centre that may result in political conflict. If the Maoists and other parties cannot agree on which party should get this post, they might wisely consider giving it to some neutral consensus candidate of proven ability, integrity and stature. Agreement on these and other issues has to be reached soon, because the present government has no better status now than a caretaker one, and after May 28, even that status will become untenable.