Less than three weeks after Nepal’s major parties said there was no possibility of reinstating the old Constituent Assembly (CA) and agreed to hold fresh elections, the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has decided to push for the CA’s revival once again.
Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has proposed to the Nepali Congress (NC) that they find an agreement on contentious issue of federalism, and bring back the expired CA through a political decision to promulgate the statute. The NC is divided about the proposal.
On Tuesday, Mr. Prachanda said publicly that he felt if parties did a “little bit of hard work”, an agreement on the constitution was possible. Referring to the perception that Maoists had backtracked from the election agreement since they feared losing in the polls, the chairman said, “Our party is not scared of going back to the people. Elections are always an option in a democracy. But we have seen in the past two weeks that coming to an agreement on the polls is not easy either.”
In a meeting with NC president Sushil Koirala, the Maoist leader proposed a “win-win formula”. Political sources privy to the discussion told The Hindu that Mr. Prachanda suggested that the different models of federalism — including the ten-State model proposed by a majority of the members of the State Restructuring Commission and favoured by Maoists, ethnic groups and Madhesis as well as the six-State model proposed by minority members nominated by NC and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) — could be attached as an annex to the constitution.
If the NC agreed to reinstate the CA and promulgate the constitution, Mr. Prachanda offered to support Mr. Koirala as the next Prime Minister. But in case there are elections without agreeing on the constitution, Maoists have said they will not accept NC leadership of the next government.
On Wednesday, local media quoted Mr. Koirala reiterating the party’s position in favour of holding fresh polls. But the NC is divided. Two prime ministerial contenders — senior party leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel — have been lobbying for the reinstatement option since they see prospects of leading the next government. But influential leaders like Ram Sharan Mahat, Arjun Narsingh KC, and Shekhar Koirala have pushed for fresh polls.
Observers say that while revival could be the “quickest” way to resolve the impasse, there are several impediments: finding a broad-based agreement on the substance of the constitution which has the buy-in of Janjatis and Madhesis; arriving at a power-sharing deal; meeting the legal challenge since the judiciary had refused to allow an extension of the CA’s term; and sequencing the issue of leadership transfer and constitution promulgation. The inability to arrive at such a deal had pushed the parties into deciding to go for elections last month.