FEB 10 - Now that the UCPN (Maoist)'s seventh General Convention is over, its leaders have once again decided to resume negotiations regarding a change in government that will pave the way to elections. This time, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has proposed that the parties appoint the Chief Justice as prime minister to head the election government. The other parties have reacted with some skepticism at Dahal's proposal. Some leaders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML rejected the proposal outright. Some others—including NC President Sushil Koirala and UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal—have been more circumspect and claim that they are still studying the proposal. Non-Maoist leaders especially don't like the manner in which the proposal was made public: instead of taking opposition leaders into confidence, Dahal chose to inform a mass party gathering in Hetauda to reveal such a crucial inter-party issue. And there are those who are perpetually suspicious of the Maoist leader. They feel that the new proposal is meant only to sow confusion within the opposition while the Maoists continue to stay put in office.
There may be some truth to some of these suspicions, given Chairman Dahal's perpetual flip-flops. Still, the opposition parties would be wise not to simply reject any proposal that comes from the Maoists. They should take it as an opening through which a new power-sharing arrangement can be negotiated and elections held. For it is clear by now that the political deadlock that has ensued since the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly eight months ago has not benefited them. As a result, the Maoists have remained in office and the opposition parties have been left out in the cold.
There are some basic facts that have come to light over the previous months. First, neither the Maoists and the Madhesis on the one hand, nor the Nepali Congress and the UML on the other, are willing to accept a prime minister from the other side. It was because of this that the idea of an independent candidate came forth. But each side's independent candidate was unacceptable to the other. Dahal now claims that his new idea of appointing the Chief Justice is meant to break this impasse, though he made yet another somersault on his return from Hetauda by insisting that he neither officially proposed nor endorsed the idea of a government led by the Chief Justice. Given that the window for May elections is fast closing, the President has rightly asked the warring parties to find common ground within the next couple of days. Now it's up to the parties—both Maoist-Madhesi and NC-UML—to demonstrate both consistency and flexibility to make May elections possible.
Posted on: 2013-02-11 08:55