The Constituent Assembly members will probably give the country’s first President in the run-off election today. Madhesi Janaadhar Forum (MJF)’s Parmananda Jha has already become the country’s first vice president. Jha, a former Supreme Court ad hoc judge, after being held guilty two years ago by the Judicial Council of clearing a drug peddler, had not been confirmed as permanent SC judge. For the presidency, both the final candidates are Madhesis — Ram Raja Prasad Singh, a non-Maoist republican leader of long-standing fielded by the CPN-Maoist, and Nepali Congress’s general secretary Dr Ram Baran Yadav — will fight it out. Yadav is backed mainly by the three-party combine formed by the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML, and the MJF on the morning of the election, Saturday. Initially, Singh was tipped to win the race, but now Yadav is. Whoever wins, the election of a president is urgently needed to end the confusion and uncertainty in the country, provide a legitimate government, and set in motion the process of constitution writing.

Even if Singh loses, the CPN-Maoist may still claim a moral victory. The NC and the UML had, by fielding the Madhesi candidates for President, had eventually done what the Maoists had wanted them to do — to make these posts ‘inclusive’. Earlier, the NC and the UML had rejected the Maoist proposal for seeking a consensus on an ‘impartial candidate acceptable to them all’, or, failing that, “either the NC or the UML give a candidate of ‘inclusive character’; instead, the NC and the UML had stuck to Koirala and Nepal respectively for the post. One may wonder how the UML, in particular, stands to benefit from this arrangement. The Maoists have taken it as an attempt at its ‘encirclement’. In fact, both the presidential candidates now in the fray are acceptable faces. But, of even greater importance is the impact of this politics of numbers on the working relationship between political parties in the days to come, as collaboration is necessary for writing the constitution and bringing the peace process to a logical conclusion.

Political equations may, now on, be made or broken according to expedience, but one hopes, not by bringing the level of national politics to a very low depth reminiscent of the post-1990 multiparty era. But adoption of the majoritarian principle in place of the consensual approach adopted since the historic 12-point agreement between the Maoists and the then anti-regression parliamentary parties is feared to affect the peace process adversely. However, one can expect that the parties that have brought the country so far down the road of peace will not do anything to endanger the process. The polarisation should not go further ahead, and the election of the top two ceremonial posts should not mark the end of the pursuit for cooperation between the political parties. Otherwise, things will not move forward. Whatever may transpire in the present election, or in that of CA chairman, the political parties will be strongly advised to form a consensus government reflecting the people’s mandate, taking the power sharing formula of the interim period as the main basis.