The political settlement of the national crisis reached between the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the CPN-Maoist in the first hour of Wednesday marks the beginning of a resolute and unfaltering march of the Nepali people towards a new era of peace, as well as of the process of building a new Nepal on the basis of a constitution drawn up by the constituent assembly (CA) elected by the sovereign voters. This will also lay to rest the political row unresolved for the past 56 years surrounding whether Nepal should have a constitution handed by a constituent assembly. The six-point understanding is historic and unprecedented in Nepali history as the people will, for the first time, be writing a constitution to govern themselves via their elected representatives. By implication, they will be carving out their own destiny through the power of the ballot, subjecting all organs of the state — including the executive, judiciary, legislature and the security forces — to a fundamental review and restructuring. Yesterday’s understanding on the total political package also demonstrates to the world a new model of peace and political resolution between the disparate forces of society that Maoist chairman Prachanda had floated on June 2.

The understanding covers a host of issues — the management of arms of both the Maoist and Nepali armies, timeframes for the formation of the interim legislature of 330 members and interim government, signing of a comprehensive peace accord; promulgation of the interim constitution and the formation of an interim government (a process that is scheduled to commence on Nov 26 and be completed by Dec 1); the determination of the parliamentary strength and relative allocation of seats to each party; the pattern of the CA polls combining both the first-past-the-post system and proportional representation;

the voting age of 18; and the holding of the CA elections by mid-June for which a date will be set; UN monitoring of arms management and of the CA polls, etc. The fate of the monarchy will be decided by the first meeting of the CA through a simple majority. The political parties have agreed to honour all their past understandings, agreements and code of conduct, besides reaffirming their commitment to a competitive multiparty democratic political system, civil liberties, fundamental rights, press freedom and the concept of the rule of law.

In the days ahead, mutual trust will be required between the political parties more than ever before. Trust and a strict adherence to one’s commitments hold the key to the successful steering of the political process that lies ahead through all the challenges to ushering in of a genuinely pluralistic multiparty democracy. After being fed up with over five decades of political experimentation which largely failed to provide good governance, raise the people’s general standard of living significantly, rein in corruption and abuse of authority in body politic, and even institutionalise any kind of democracy except for relatively short intermissions of multiparty exercise, the Nepali people are now pinning high hopes on the results of a process that has just been formally set in motion

with the historic accord. In this context, the political parties and their leaders must learn

from both within and without — that is, from our own past mistakes and wrong practices, including those committed after the 1990 pro-democracy movement, as well as from the experiences of other countries with democracy and good governance. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Prachanda and other major leaders who have shown statesmanship in reaching the present compromise must be aware of these and may be expected to emerge and act equal to the huge task ahead.

Sixteen years ago, too, the political leaders had assured the people that the constitution in the making then would be a lasting one and nobody would be allowed to trash it. But the promise did not hold as autocracy got the upper hand more than four years ago. The situation now is vastly different and the new constitution that will be made will not be subject to the kind of serious compromises of 1990. The changes the Nepalis have witnessed in just seven months after the April Revolution are based on the solid foundation laid by the Maoist armed struggle of ten years and the 12-point agreement between the SPA and the Maoists signed in New Delhi, that made the defeat of autocracy possible in such a short time. Today’s democratic gains are the most fundamental the Nepali people have won in the country’s entire history. That also means that in order to consolidate these permanently through the constituent assembly, the major political leaders and all citizens need to show a high degree of alertness, maturity, wisdom and courage.