Nepali politics: The management of transition

It has been over two months since the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections were held and the results announced, yet we are still unable to form a new government to replace the incumbent interim formation headed by PM GP Koirala. I left Nepal on May 17 to get away from it all and relax in the balmy weather of the West Coast in the US. My joys have begun

to diminish as I watch, in pain, the political imbroglio resulting from the tussle for power sharing among the three major parties: the CPM-Maoist, the Nepali Congress and the CPM-UML. After much delay and protracted negotiations, the three finally agreed on amendment to the Interim Constitution regarding the provision of the formation and dissolution of government. The new agreement would replace the existing requirement of two-third majority of the CA by a simple majority. Similarly the president would also be elected by a simple majority but a two-third majority would be needed for h/her removal.

It looks as if the current political impasse revolves around three basic issues: election of the President; formation of government and power sharing; and integration of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the Nepal Army (NA). The NC has also brought forth a seven-point demand that, inter alia, includes the return of property seized by the Maoists, the dissolution of the Young Communist League (YCL), and agreement on the modalities for the integration of the PLA with the NA prior to the formation of the new government. Both the NC and the UML agree that as the Nepal Army needs to be free of political bias, there cannot be a wholesale merger of the PLA, a politically indoctrinated outfit, in the NA. They have advocated that the PLA members be inducted into the NA based on the individual merits.

The Maoists insist that the PLA needs to be inducted lock, stock and barrel into the NA, purportedly as per the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Unfortunately, there is no meeting of the minds on the interpretation of the above clause of the agreement. This has been the major bone of contention between the three parties. The NC and CPN-UML, as two major democratic parties, seem to have taken the right stand with regard to upholding the independence of the army from political bias. A wholesale integration of the PLA in the army could lead to ideological induction in the NA, which so far, unlike the armies of some South Asian neighbours, have not harboured any political ambitions. So we must encourage the NC and CPN-UML to be firm in this particular stand and not give in to the demands of political expediency.

As regards the issue of electing the President and power sharing among political parties in the new government, these are really non-issues. The coalition parties forming the new government would be able to put up their presidential candidate and ensure victory. In this context, the CPN-Maoist as the largest party should be able to form the coalition government after agreeing to an appropriate power sharing mechanism with their prospective partners. If the NC or CPN-UML is not the actual preferred partner in the coalition, there is no reason why they should be so involved in the current power sharing dialogue. Now that the king, who graciously made his exit from the Narayanhity Palace in accordance with the verdict of the people, is around no longer to act as the scapegoat for the mistakes of political parties, it is about time that leaders became a bit more visionary and productive in national governance.

It is not enough to let fly platitudes on building a “New Nepal”; the absolute necessity to work on the basis of a new paradigm giving priority to hard work over sloganeering, good governance over “will do”, honesty over chicanery, and national interest over partisan considerations calls for some serious soul searching. Now the ball is in the Maoists’ court. By whatever means the Maoists might have secured the legitimacy to head the new government, it is the duty of the other parties to give them the opportunity to have a fair shot at it.

Equally, the Maoists must forget their dream of capturing power through so-called “revolutionary” methods and work honestly to embrace multiparty democracy and pluralism. Thus, they must abandon their romanticism for running their parallel military outfit while heading a civilian government. Towards this end, they must come to a consensus with other parties on the issue of PLA integration in the army in a way that will free the army from any political encumbrances and the future role of the YCL.

Lastly, the nation has suffered for far too long in the wake of the so-called People’s War. Our people have pinned great hopes on the CA to achieve durable peace and sustainable rosperity. Now that the CA elections are over, it is time to deliver. Let us hope that our political leaders will live up to our expectations and not let us down this time.

Thapa is NC General Committee member