Sound and sensible

Former American president Jimmy Carter, also the head of the Carter Centre he has founded, on Saturday, at the conclusion of his four-day visit, handed over a proposal to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala for ending the political deadlock in the country . Carter has raised hopes that the political parties, which have taken a 10-day recess from the parliamentary session to find a consensus on the two parliamentary resolutions on full proportional representation and republican system will succeed. The Carter formula seeks to address the sensitivities of both the Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist. The idea of 70 per cent proportional representation and 30 per cent first-past-the-post system - besides giving eight seats to each of the three major parties and one each to the minor parties — may be expected to strike the right chord with the political parties. The suggestion on the question of republic, too, seeks a similar approach — the declaration with ‘an overwhelming majority’ of the interim parliament that a republic has been created in Nepal, to be confirmed by a simple majority of the constituent assembly. This, Carter said, would constitute a ‘strong incentive’ for all parties to consummate a successful election.

All this shows that the former US president visited Nepal with a serious mission aimed at reconciling the differing parties and ensuring the election as soon as possible. In this task, the need for the political parties, particularly the Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist, to display a little more flexibility is crucial. Carter’s proposal is perfectly sound and sensible, in that no side should feel let down or ignored. The success of the peace process demands mutual accommodation. At the same time, it is also very logical to assume that Carter has not put forward his proposal all of a sudden, without some hint of support from the three major parties — the Congress, the CPN-M, and the CPN-UML. He held three rounds of talks with their leaders — first separately, then jointly and then separately again, before he handed over his formula to the Prime Minister.

Carter’s suggestion of a ‘time-limited round-table discussion’ of any final agreement by including the representatives of the marginalised groups seeks to satisfy most people, including the Maoists, who have been insisting on holding a round-table conference. Carter also spoke of the ‘serious obstacles’ that stood in the way of the constituent assembly and a national constitution, as well as of the ‘deeper mistrust’ among the parties. And he was not wrong in this assessment. In yet another positive sign, he said he had been assured that, by December 15, the parties would resolve the ‘outstanding issues’ clearing the way for the conduct of the CA polls, hopefully by mid-April, a time-frame that Prime Minister Koirala has been emphasising. His mention of the ‘gradually improving’ relations between the CPN-M and the US and of the efforts under way to take the former rebels off the US terrorist list are good signs for the peace process in Nepal.Carter’s proposal deserves the most serious consideration of the political parties.