Where things stand
Many newspaper headlines may have given the general public the misleading impression that the country will now automatically become a republic and adopt full proportional representation after the Interim Legislature-Parliament (ILP) on Saturday passed by a simple majority the CPN-UML’s amendment motion on republic and the CPN-Maoist’s original motion on full proportionality. Barring the existence or possibility of any understanding between the three major political parties — the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN-M — to focus on holding the constituent assembly (CA) polls without delay, the resolutions do not by themselves promise to end the deadlock. The Nepali Congress voted against both proposals—even against the vague and watered-down version of the Maoists’ republican motion, which included the parliament’s directive to the government to fix a new date and conduct the CA polls, determining without delay all procedures of declaring the country a republic and taking concrete measures to that end. The wording lends itself to more than one interpretation.
The formula, adopted after 25 days of discussions at various levels, appears to have been aimed at saving the face of all. The passed resolutions will not be binding on the government, and these cannot have any legal meaning without amending the constitution. But, as Congress leader Dr Rambaran Yadav says, the resolutions will have political, not constitutional, significance. Any constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority of the legislature, and without Congress support, it is not possible. There is no doubt a moral dimension to the resolutions. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala also needs to take along other alliance partners with him, particularly the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist, even to set a new date for the CA election, let alone successfully conduct it.
What stances these parties take in the regular session of parliament, which is to commence on November 19, will help assess the import of the resolutions more fully. The fact that several Left parties, particularly the Big Two, banded together to vote alike on the motions does not necessarily mean that a Left alliance is emerging. To all appearances, it was a one-off deal. The outcome of the special session provides reason to believe that the seven parties do not want to break the alliance. Indeed, that realisation is wise. Prime Minister Koirala, in his reply speech in the parliament, asked all to remain assured that the seven-party unity would not collapse despite the split votes. According to him, the country has been imbued with republican colour, and the international community too has accepted it. Indeed, given the mood of the country and the commitment of the political parties, a republic in Nepal appears to be only a matter of time — of holding the CA election. The next step for the seven parties should be to fix the date for the CA election, and for this, the three major parties should be ready to demonstrate a little more flexibility, if need be. It is also worth keeping in mind that there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.