United they stand

Following the postponement of the constituent assembly (CA) elections, for a second time, scheduled for November 22, the seven political parties are trading accusations and counter-accusations in an attempt to pin down responsibility. Political outfits outside the alliance are blaming the seven parties or the leadership of the interim government. Powerful countries and organisations have expressed their unhappiness at the postponement. At home, the people appear to be disappointed, confused and uncertain about the future course of Nepali politics. While questions are being raised about Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s leadership failure and suggestions made for his stepping down, Nepali Congress general secretary Dr Ram Baran Yadav has said there is ‘no alternative’ to Koirala’s leadership, because ‘there is none other than Koirala capable of resolving the present crisis’. Yadav has put the blame for the deferral on all the seven parties.

CPN-UML leaders have accused the ‘old and ineffectual’ leadership of the Congress as well as the intransigence of the Maoists for the deferral, criticising both for letting the big opportunity to hold the CA polls slip by. The CPN-UML, the Janamorcha Nepal, and the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party had registered their note of dissent against the decision. Their and others’ worry about the CA polls, which have eluded the Nepalis for the past 57 years, is understandable, and their fears of a repetition of history cannot just be brushed aside. In this context, however, the view that just a change of leadership of the government cannot end the crisis has some truth to it, because it is rather the settlement of the issues that matters. That being said, moral responsibility weighs heavy; moreover, none of the seven political parties can lay a natural claim to this leadership role. But as the people have given the seven parties the mandate to steer the country’s transition, it is they again who should resolve this question collectively.

As the legislature-parliament convenes in a special session this Thursday to discuss and decide on the Maoist demands for outright declaration of a republic and switchover to full proportional representation, there is still time for the seven parties to save the situation by arriving at a consensus. Indeed, to this end, Koirala has continued consultations with the top leaders of the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist. More serious problems will come up if the parliament fails to find a way out. Admittedly, the poll postponement has given the forces of regression a breather, as the historic opportunity to decide the fate of the monarchy has been delayed, too. They had been jolted by the recent Congress decision to go republican. Fissures in the seven-party alliance will only strengthen these forces, and give them more time and opportunities for mischief. To keep them at bay, and bring the political transition to a logical conclusion in line with the mandate of Jana Anolan II, the seven parties need to make their unity rock-solid. The issues that led to the poll postponement should not be allowed to weaken it further.