The lack of seriousness of the political parties emerged after the Election Commission on New Year’s eve announced its inability to hold the elections of the constituent assembly on June 20. That was the date proposed by the head of the eight political parties. The seriousness is measured by their failure to hold a meeting on Sunday.
However much awaited, the planned eight party meeting adjourned without holding any formal talks Sunday afternoon citing as reasons, the lack of adequate homework. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala did not attend the meeting hall and the second in command in the cabinet Ram Chandra Poudel informed the leaders of the other parties that the meeting could be held later with some homework.
Party home work
The UML concluded its standing committee meeting on Saturday where it blamed the failure on the Prime Minister and the Nepali Congress, which leads the government since the restoration of parliament last year. After the initial meeting of the eight party leaders on Friday, Jhala Nath Khanal of the UML told reporters they asked Koirala to shoulder all blame for the failure. UML had decided to seek the formal reaction of the government regarding the announcement of the election commission on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan, whom Koirala denied the second-in-command position in the interim cabinet, also reproached Koirala for this new political debacle. A few other ministers queued up behind her to criticise Koirala’s leadership.
The Maoists also held their debate series within the party for days to discuss the new circumstances created in the country. The first open central committee meeting of the party concluded just before the planned eight party meeting on Sunday, deciding to launch the third phase of the movement for establishing a democratic republic.
Nepali Congress and Nepali Congress Democratic have not shown any sign of holding a party meeting to discuss the unfolding political circumstances. The Nepali Congress Democratic was the only party to welcome the Electoral Commission announcement to defer the June 20 polls. Talking to reporters at Tribhuvan International Airport while returning after a health check, NDC president Sher Bahadur Deuba said his party welcomes the timely decision of the Electoral Commission. During the meeting of the top brass of the eight parties with the Electoral Commission two weeks ago, Deuba had raised questions about credible elections without first improving the security situation in the country.
Pressure for Republic
Nepali Congress remains the final pillar of hope for the monarchy. Splinter NCD is much ahead in support for a republic in Nepal, yet its stand on the issue has virtually waned after merger plans began to come up. Even so, Nepali Congress faces critical pressure from junior leaders, including PM Koirala’s aide Dr Shekhar Koirala, that the party must support the republic. Up to now, the party has not clarified its stand whether it supports a republic or constitutional monarchy.
Last month, PM Kiorala in Biratnagar suggested King Gyanendra and Crown Prince Paras must quit their positions. Many claimed Koirala’s statement was in favour of a republic while others say he wants NavaYubaraj Hridayendra to be installed to continue a ceremonial monarchy.
Nepali Congress has been facing immense pressure from the communist parties and civil society activists to declare Nepal a republic. So far, all their efforts to pressure Nepali Congress on the institution of monarchy have failed.
On Saturday, the UML decided to propose a referendum on the future of the monarchy before June 20 if the constituent assembly polls are not viable for that time. Similarly, the Maoists planned a proposal at the eight-party meeting to declare the country a republic if the June 20 Constituent Assembly polls are deferred. The party claims the interim house has the authority to do so.
On the eve forming the interim government, the eight parties had agreed to an amendment of the interim constitution with provisions to remove the king by a two-third majority of the interim house if he acted against holding the constituent assembly elections. Although this has not come in written form, deferral of the constituent assembly now has provided an opportunity for the left parties to press the Nepali Congress to vote for a republic.
Interestingly, in an interview with BBC Nepali Service on Saturday, astrologers said the time would turn in favour of King Gyanendra after July. The astrologers said monarchy would not be removed from Nepal at any cost after July.
In an interview to Nepal FM on Sunday, civil society activist Shyam Shrestha said the problem has arisen due to the failure of the Maoist and the UML to stick to their stand while taking important decisions.
Questions on Koirala Leadership
Jana Morcha lawmaker Lila Mani Pokhrel during Sunday’s session of the parliament said deferral of the CA polls means the failure of Koirala. Koirala, while taking the oath at the parliament on April 1, had expressed commitment to hold the elections on time and if he could not do so, he would resign. Stressing the statement by Koirala, Pokhrel said Koirala now remains with no other option than to resign and open a new way out of the crisis.
Koirala had repeatedly expressed the commitment to hold elections by the scheduled time. In accordance with his stand, the Electoral Commission asked government and the parliament to formulate legal instruments early. Almost four months passed since the Electoral Commission asked for finalising the instruments, two of them still remain under debate in the house.
Other leaders just followed what Koirala said that polls are viable in June but their activities failed to create the environment for them. The leaders were hopeful of holding the polls when Koirala said the polls would be held ‘differently’ in ‘different circumstances’. The punch from the EC comes at a time, Koirala has become active in CA polls preparation: from seeking Indian support to addressing mass meetings as part of the NC’s election campaigns.
The lingering question is whether Koirala will stick to his stand that he would tell the parliament if he could not hold the elections.
So far, the eight parties have not reached the conclusion that their basis of unity has ended. Koirala on Monday urged Prachanda to strengthen relations among the eight parties to face upcoming challenges. To prove they are serious about the future of the nation and to keep up the words given to the people, the parties must end their selfish party interests, exchanging blame and sit together to find solutions to the challenges ahead in unison. The unity they built during the movement against direct rule of the king must also be reflected now to make the transitional period smooth.