In Nepal, there is a proverb that that the number 11 is very auspicious since it is at the eleventh hour that most things get done in typical Nepali fashion. Surely, Nepalis are able to manage things at the 11th hour whether it is putting a mountaineering team on the top of Everest or forming a cabinet to oversee national democratic governance.
Now, the eleventh hour in Nepali politics is getting more significant attention with the Nepali cabinet deciding just a week before the first sitting of parliament on May 28 to promulgate the oath of office to be administered to 601 Constituent Assembly members at Singha Durbar. The CA members have likewise agreed they will take their oath of office at the eleventh hour, in other words, just a day before the first CA meeting is held on May 28. Government minister Hisila Yami informed the press that the CA meeting and other regular agendas would also be drafted and prepared soon, which signifies the eleventh hour habit still persisting among Nepali politicians. Although Nepal’s CA Poll was held on April 10 and the country still does not have a constitutionally elected government, that too could be considered a hurried eleventh hour decision of the seven party alliance, unsure what would happen if they postponed it one more day
Thus, just a week before the actual sitting of the Constituent Assembly Poll, Nepal’s Maoists seem to have received the eleventh hour green signal to head the next government. Yesterday, the four major parties in the Constituent Assembly - Nepali Congress, CPN (Unified Marxist Leninist), Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) and Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) – agreed through a last minute decision to formally allow the Maoists to form a new government. An understanding was reached in Singha Durbar, though the Maoists appear unwilling to accept any constitutional adjustments that do away with the two third majority requirement, that in effect, still exists. NC leader and Peace Minister Ram Chandra Poudel was one of the participants at the meeting and told the media that the four big parties had agreed to "resolve the constitutional crisis" through an amendment to the interim constitution. However, there are 25 political parties in Nepal represented in the Nepali Constituent Assembly, and the majority of them are still lining up for their holy Bagmati dip before spinning any media tales on which coalition they will join, the government or the opposition’s.
Poudel even went so far as to state that the likely composition of the next government was discussed, although it was done without consulting the majority of parties once again. NC came a distant third in the recent CA Poll and its senior leaders are torn between joining or boycotting a Maoist led government. NCs number two and also two time former Premier Sher Bahadur Deuba has staunchly warned of no alliances with the Maoists unless they agree to the recently put forward seven point NC demand, namely that the Maoists dismantle YCL, return all the seized property and show up as an unarmed fully democratic party. Since the Maoists have become the largest party in the current political setting in Nepal, they must show willingness to meet the conditions, Deuba stated. He also mentioned that NC didn't talk about these conditions earlier in order to help the smooth conduct of CA elections. Thus, Kathmandu’s media wallas seem baffled that the leaders of NC, CPN (UML) and MJF have agreed to form a common stance on future power sharing, while some powerful voices within are giving opposite hints of staying out.
The truth is the Nepal Maoists are the legitimate winners of the Nepal’s CA Poll, they do not need any one’s permission, green signal or blessings for that matter to form a government. The Maoists have managed to garner a simple majority win through the Constituent Assembly election to take over power and they promise they will form one soon. However Maoist Minister Deb Gurung believes his party will not form a government whereby the constitution is amended, it could set a bad precedent. Yesterday, a decision by the Central Secretariat Meeting of the CPN (Maoist) party held at the party headquarters presided over by party Chairman Prachanda stated, "Since after the conclusion of the Constituent Assembly election the current government headed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has automatically become a caretaker government, the Prime Minister will be requested that he should clarify his position and immediately invite CPN (Maoist), which has emerged as the largest party, to form a new government."
However in a decisive cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala yesterday, he made it clear that he will clarify his own status and that of the present government on May 28 itself. Koirala provided the terse response when some Maoist ministers asked him to clarify the exact status of the government –- whether it is a caretaker government with very limited rights, and if he was preparing to hand over the reins of power to a new government right away.
Coincidentally, the UN Security Council is reviewing the CA Poll report on Nepal today. It is learnt Nepal’s Special Representative to the UN, Madhuraman Acharya, and UNMIN Chief, Ian Martin, have held a consultation this morning on Nepal’s earlier political situation before UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon tables the report at the Security Council in UN headquarters in New York which will also focus on conclusion of the current peace process. Ban had earlier indicated that UNMIN’s tenure would not be renewed after July 23 when it effectively ends, although it is seriously considering how to keep the peace process alive within the regular development cooperation activities of the UN Resident Coordinator’s office in Nepal.
In forming the next government, the Maoists have recurrently stated they would radically control their youth cadres in future, shipping them out to various development districts in the rural areas, abide by universal democratic norms, uphold global press freedom, respect liberal industrial policies as demanded by Nepali industrialists and entrepreneurs, uphold human rights, and seek the people’s consensus before making any major decisions that impact on national sovereignty and Nepal’s territorial integrity, which include helping tailor an economic policy that will eventually edge Nepal closer towards embracing globalization in the footsteps of its two neighbors, India and China. However given eleventh hour conspiracies, the Nepali Maoists have had to launch pro-active multilateral negotiations to keep others from forming a government before they do.
(The author is a freelance global strategic communications, media and international development resource consultant based in Maryland, US and can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Note from the Nepal Horizons Editorial Team: The views and opinion expressed in this article are that of the author and not of NHC. We request individuals with interest in Nepal to submit their views on contemporary Nepalese issues to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures of contributors or images that relate to submissions are welcome)