Political deadlock : Will the next summit be different?

For the last two weeks the leaders of the seven political parties have been meeting frequently to resolve their differences but so far, all such attempts have failed. This makes people worry about the capacity of the leaders to consolidate the gains of Jana Andolan II. It also makes them wary of the promises of the political leaders.

In the last couple of weeks, there have been several meetings at several levels leadership and while the civil society has been demanding proper attention of the leaders on the outstanding issues, the leaders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist have been repeating their old tunes. There is no basis to believe that the seven party alliance will remain intact although the PM has repeatedly stated the need of unity.

While there is national consensus on the need of harmony and camaraderie among the seven parties, the daily utterances of political leaders are not at all reassuring with regard to the continuity of the alliance.

The new developments in the working relationship among the parties is a sign of a bigger conflict. Though the meetings have not succeeded in convergence of ideas, they always succeeded in giving assurance of more meetings. The most recent trend has been to blame each other for the failure to come to a negotiated solution. Most alarming is a statement by the acting president of the NC on October 25: “Forget about reactionary forces making their comeback, this uncertainty will lead to civil war if the Maoists stick to their unreasonable stance.” He also accused the Maoists of “trying to save monarchy” and stated, “They do not want constituent assembly election to take place.” This is a grave threat to continued efforts to strengthen the peace accord.

Similar statements have been made by the Maoist supremo who has accused all the “parliamentary parties” of trying to save the monarchy, foiling the gains of Jana Andolan II and conspiring to apply cosmetic political reforms.

Such statements doubting the intention of others cannot strengthen the understanding among the political parties. Such accusations will be limited not only to party platforms and programmes but also to individual candidates during the election race. First-past-the-post electoral system motivates the candidates to degrade the opponents. Such a practice will in no way be helpful to maintain the alliance. Mutual misunderstandings would multiply.

The Maoist demand of a fully proportional representation system is not an exclusive Maoist agenda. Ethnic communities, Tarai people, Dalits and women have been raising the same agenda. Obviously, they feel that the system of fully proportional representation would give them a better opportunity in policymaking, governance and economic development. In place of addressing the issue and discuss the pros and cons of the issue, a vice-president of the NC sermonised that the adoption of full proportional representation would weaken the political parties and strengthen the ethnic-political organisations.

Nepalis want to usher into a new era of inclusive democracy and for that adequate representation has to be granted to the ethnic communities, Dalits, women and Tarai people. The door for emergence of new political parties will open only if the existing political parties ignore the aspirations of the marginalised people. The emergence of new political parties is a natural phenomenon in a multiparty democracy. Is it not preposterous to suggest that emergence of new parties would cast a shadow over the existing political parties? Even if that were so, why should people worry?

In order to arrive at a consensus and fix a new date for CA election it is necessary for the NC and the Maoists to show maximum flexibility and find a point of compromise. Maoist chairman Prachanda and his close associate Baburam Bhattarai have publicity announced that they would compromise only if one of their agendas is accepted. The NC leadership has to explore how such an offer could be accepted. In a grand alliance no party has the privilege to stick to its principles, which might be dear but could foil the unity among the parties at the same time. Let NC and Maoists thrash out their differences as soon as possible and let the government announce a new date for the CA polls no later than mid-April 2008 or the end of the year according to the Nepali calendar.

NC claims to be a responsible democratic party with national interest its main guiding force. At the current historical juncture the Nepali Congress has to show utmost flexibility to let a consensus emerge on national issues. Acceptance of fully proportional system would guarantee all sections of the population adequate representation and make for a truly inclusive political system. This would persuade the Maoists to take part fully in mainstream politics. All eyes are on the next ‘crucial’ summit meeting of the SPA. Let people’s hope be fulfilled this time around.

Upadhyay is ex-foreign minister