Put people first

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s resignation is a victory for democracy, not because the Maoists are out of government, but because it reflects the coming of age of Nepal’s democratic process. The Maoists, who waged a decade long People’s War, have been graceful in their exit from power, and in doing so, they have fully followed democratic norms. This subservience to democratic values, once unexpected of the Maoists, reflects the extent to which political process in Nepal has evolved. As PM Prachanda stated, his resignation was the only way out of the current political imbroglio. The whole episode hinges on the Nepali Army issue, but it was just a pretext for the UCPN-Maoists’ political isolation.

Although Prachanda tried to portray otherwise in his speech, the current situation has primarily resulted because of the Maoists’ habit of taking unilateral decisions and overlooking the need to earn the trust of other political parties.

The Prime Minister’s surprise move, which has both shocked and confused other political parties, has allowed him and the United CPN-Maoist to regain their lost stature. The cleverly worked out statement did not hide the fact that the Maoists were unable to deliver because they were inexperienced. It also highlighted the Maoists as being peaceful, positive and responsible for the peace process and constitution writing. Although the Maoists have been forced to step down from the government, the possibility of their coming back to power still exists. The formation of the next government would be extremely difficult without the support of the Maoists and the MJF. This indicates the possible need to forge a new understanding in running the government and taking the peace process forward.

It would be impossible to complete the peace process — integration of Maoist combatants, restructuring of the state and constitution drafting — without active United CPN-Maoist support. With them in opposition, the country may become ungovernable. However, the Maoists must fundamentally alter their attitude to governance, peace process and political practice if we are to see any progress. As other political parties have experienced, the intransigence of the Maoists on many issues of national interest continues to pose a hurdle. We hope that, with this episode, the Maoists will imbibe a culture of consensus and begin anew on the peace process. The focus should now shift from competitive politics to putting people first.