In the last seven months, Nepal’s politics has taken a complete U-turn, from hardcore monarchy to laying propositions for a republican set up.
Despite the pragmatic stance of the leading Nepali Congress for ceremonial monarchy here and widening differences among the communist parties in terms of working together for a republic, changes are not so derogatory for both sides.
The importance of the agreement signed between the ruling seven parties and the rebellious Maoists on Wednesday is much higher than any other in the sense that it not only compelled the Maoists to renounce violence but also inculcated in them the principles of multi-party competitive politics. Changing the perspectives of extremism in the Maoist principles was the need and demand of the Nepalese people who are acquainted with the open democratic culture during the last 15 years. The latest accord has invigorated hopes of peace and prosperity for them.
Differences and issue of citizen sovereignty
After the signing of the accord, differences have surfaced. One of the major members of the seven-party alliance, CPN (UML) put its note of dissent at the end of the agreement on issues of determining the fate of the monarchy and electoral system.
The May 18 declaration of the House of Representatives had recognized Nepali citizens as sovereign and most powerful. The UML said the agreement hassled the sovereign rights of the people.
In a sense, the party is right. The issue of the monarchy was the most important issue of debate during the April uprising. Millions of people who took to the streets had sought their sovereign rights to determine the future of the monarchy. Sloganeering against the institution of monarchy was at the front of the movement.
Preventing these people from casting their votes to say whether they want a monarchy in Nepal or not is dishonoring their sovereign rights. Ironically, king Gyanendra had put people at the top of all his speeches during his absolute rule. This trend has been reflected in the democratic parties as well.
Clearly, the rising differences between with UML is the main reason for the Maoists to align with democrat Nepali Congress to say the first sitting of the constituent assembly would determine the future of the monarchy in Nepal against the stand of the UML that a referendum should be held to determine the monarchy’s future. And the reason for widening differences is the failure of the UML to accept the Maoists’ invitation for a republican front.
The agreement did not woo the indigenous communities who said it failed to address them. Interestingly, the Maoists have risen to this power due to their slogan for ethic empowerment but finally failed to mention ‘indigenous communities’ in the long awaited agreement finalized on Wednesday.
Future of monarchy and Nepali Congress
On Wednesday, Maoist supremo Prachanda termed PM Koirala as the de facto head of the state. This would be his technique to impress Koirala to push for a republic. Several times in the past, Maoists termed UML as royalist and obliterated communist force and in turn the UML termed Maoists as hardcore communists that believe in arms and violence.
PM Koirala took this as a good weapon to go ahead with his strategies. In no way, hints are there that Nepali Congress would deviate from its stand for a ceremonial monarchy. As per the agreement, the party has become the largest party for the interim parliament and can hold a leading position in decision making.
PM Koirala knows the way to divert people abruptly. The overwhelming majority received by the party during the 1999 election is an instance. Koirala presented cool and well-revered K. P. Bhattarai as candidate for prime minister and easily held his grip on the parliament even at the time Koirala’s image had been exposed like a villain.
Over the period, he has turned into the hero of Nepali politics. Now he prepares for unification of the Nepali Congress just before the constituent assembly election slated for June next year. Once unified, Nepali Congress will occupy over one-third of the power in the interim parliament and is certain to get a majority in the election. The agreement said the future of monarchy would be determined through a simple majority vote. This will be easier for Koirala to save the monarchy.
For him, getting support from smaller parties and a few pro-king parties is easier and increasing differences between the UML and Maoists is most beneficial for him. Thus, his project for ceremonial monarchy is Nepal would get a foothold here.
Does it have any relation with what Koirala used to spell ‘grand design’ during the king’s rule? Now he says, he is doing ‘political gambling’. This must become a good subject for political analysts.
Needless to say, the unfolding political changes in Nepal are a good example for world experts to resolve internal civil war if agreement reached is successfully implemented.