Differences persist over unity government to hold polls

Nepali parties have formally resumed their negotiations to determine the political roadmap after a long festival break. While they have been swinging between two options, of either holding fresh elections for a new Constituent Assembly (CA) or reviving the old CA to promulgate a constitution, the momentum has shifted clearly in favour of fresh polls.

In the past week, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ put forward a proposal to the Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist). As the “best option”, Maoists suggested promulgating a constitution incorporating all issues agreed upon before May 27, when the CA expired, and leaving contentious issues for the next elected Legislature-Parliament. The proposal added, “If no understanding evolves on the above-mentioned solution, or is not possible, there is no other option than to go for fresh elections.”

NC president Sushil Koirala and UML chairman Jhalanath Khanal have categorically rejected the CA revival option. A group of former Supreme Court Chief Justices warned the Prime Minister that CA revival to promulgate the statute would be unconstitutional. President Ram Baran Yadav too has spoken in favour of fresh polls.

Major differences, however, persist between the parties on the question of government leadership. While the Maoists have said Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai should lead a unity government to hold polls, the opposition has made it clear that this would not be acceptable. “We will not accept either a budget or elections from this government. A new consensus government should work out a package deal on polls, and constitutional process to hold elections,” said former Premier and UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. The Maoists have said they will not accept the leadership of the NC, and Mr. Prachanda has floated the idea of a “neutral figure” leading the election government as a compromise.

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