The only option

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has urged all the 25 political parties elected to the Constituent Assembly to forget past bitterness and misunderstanding to draft a democratic constitution in line with the aspirations of the martyrs and the Nepalis. On Saturday, he was hosting a tea party in honour of the top leaders of these parties. The PM also spoke of starting fresh consultations with the leaders of all the elected parties to reach a consensus before the CA meets for the first time. After the poll results had become clear, Koirala had in a message to the nation stressed political understanding and agreement to guide governance in the days ahead. On Friday, the top leaders of six of the SPA constituents agreed to hold the first CA meeting on one of the four days (May 25-28). Koirala’s pursuit of consensus reflects the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution, as well as the pre-election understanding reached by the three major political parties.

However, allegations are being levelled at him for his ‘unwillingness’ to clear the way for a new government. Koirala, who had announced not long ago that he would take rest from politics once the CA polls were held, is being criticised for his ‘keen desire’ to become the first president of Nepal. On Saturday, for example, Maoist politburo member Dr Baburam Bhattarai threatened street protests if Koirala did not resign to head a caretaker government. Reports tell of pressure on Koirala not to resign, including that from within his own party, but this will not do credit to the Congress, or to the personal image of Koirala himself. But he may be expected to resign only after the parties reach an understanding on government formation. But that is being interpreted as a desire to link resignation to a ‘favourable political deal’.

That a person of Koirala’s age and stature is facing such an accusation is not an encouraging sign. This interim government will have to go, and a new consensus one should be formed doing justice to the political parties’ relative position in the CA. Needless speculation would not be making the rounds now, had Koirala been able to reassure the public adequately, as is the practice after the electoral defeat of one’s party, that he would not stand in the way. As the role of the CA, and of the next government, is clear, no political party should lay down any extraneous conditions for its participation in the government. The central working committee of the NC and the central committee of the CPN-UML are yet to decide on whether these parties will join the next government. But they are under an obligation to become part of the coalition. It is another matter that the voters have made neither of them the largest party in the CA. Stung by this fact, many NC and UML central leaders are taking these positions - to take part with fulfilment of certain pre-conditions or not at all. But amid all this, the parties are in consultation over power sharing and other matters. Neither the CPN-Maoist nor the other SPA partners have an alternative to working together to make the peace process complete and successful.