Nepali parties in tense stand-off

Supporters of Nepal's pro-monarch National Democratic Party take out a torch rally close to Nepal's Constitutional Assembly building in Katmandu, Nepal, Thursday, May 26, 2011. The party, which supports monarchy and want the former king to be reinstated, were protesting demanding a national referendum.Five years after the country's communist rebels gave up a bloody revolt to join a peace process, raising hopes of a new era of stability, the country is sinking deeper into political turmoil, leaving its dreams of becoming a modern Switzerland of the East unrealized. (AP Photo/Binod Joshi)   | Photo Credit: Binod Joshi

Despite a day of marathon negotiations, Nepal's top three political parties — the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Nepali Congress (NC), and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) — failed to reach an agreement on the fate of the Constituent Assembly. The CA's term ends on Saturday.

The NC has put forward a list of 10 preconditions for supporting the UML-Maoist government's proposal for a one-year term extension. In Friday's negotiations, NC leaders insisted on two main conditions as the “bottom-line”: concrete progress on the peace process, including the handover of weapons in containers presently in cantonments; and the present government's resignation on Saturday itself. Some other NC leaders said instead of weapon handover, they could even accept if the Maoists gave the keys of containers to the government or the special committee for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants.

The Maoist chairman is learnt to have adopted a “tough” posture in Friday's talks.

He told other parties that the government could express a commitment to resign in the future when there was an alternative national unity government framework in place. On the peace process, the Maoists have proposed arriving at an in principle agreement on modality of integration of their combatants, numbers to be integrated, and a firm calendar for completion of both the peace process and constitution-writing. But they have refused to handover the arms, terming it as “surrender”.

Maoist sources told The Hindu that there was enormous pressure on Mr. Prachanda from both the dogmatic faction within the party and the leadership of the Maoist People's Liberation Army not to accept terms set by the NC.

A leader close to Mr Prachanda said: “We will prefer to save the party instead of the CA if the other parties push us very hard.” Ram Karki, a Maoist politburo member close to moderate faction led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, said: “We cannot just handover weapons without a broader deal on power-sharing, peace process and constitution writing.”

The “hard” NC and Maoist position has led to a vicious cycle. NC president Sushil Koirala and general secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula are both understood to be rigid on not extending the CA's term if Maoists do not accept the terms. They got a boost when Madhesi parties comprising the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) met Mr. Koirala and assured him of support in negotiations with Maoists.

All parties will meet on Saturday morning with negotiations expected to continue till late on Saturday night.

If the parties fail to agree, and the government fails to muster a two-thirds majority to amend the constitution and extend the term, the CA's tenure will end without the house drafting a constitution.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 12:45:11 AM |

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