Maoists to be in­cluded in Nepal’s new gov­ern­ing era

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Chi­tra Ti­wari

The po­lit­i­cal stale­mate be­tween Nepal’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment of seven po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the Maoistrebelscame­toa­nendJan.15 with­the­p­ro­mul­ga­tiono­fan­in­terim con­sti­tu­tion and the dis­so­lu­tion of par­lia­ment be­fore the cre­ation of a new 330-mem­ber in­terim leg­is­la­ture with Maoist rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

An­a­lysts say that with th­ese events, the 11-year Maoist peo­ple’s war in Nepal that took the lives of nearly14,000peo­ple­has­come­toan end, open­ing the door to peo­ple’s rule.

“This is the be­gin­ning of a new rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and of a new Nepal,” Prime Min­is­ter Gir­ija Prasad Koirala told the par­lia­ment be­fore it dis­solved.“Whati­s­abig­ger­achieve­ment than this?” he asked.

Kr­ish­naBa­hadurMa­hara,48,the Com­mu­nist Party spokesman who heade­dateamofne­go­tia­tors­dur­ing the­p­eac­etalks,was­namedleaderof the par­lia­men­tary del­e­ga­tion of the Com­mu­nistPar­ty­ofNepal(Maoist).

Af­ter tak­ing the oath of of­fice, Mr. Ma­hara said: “With the pro­mul­ga­tion of the in­terim con­sti­tu­tion, the be­gin­ning of an end of monar­chy in Nepal has be­gun.

“We have vowed from to­day that we will fin­ish the pro­gres­sive re­struc­tur­ing of the state of Nepal, and its eco­nomic and so­cial trans­for­ma­tion­i­n­unit­ed­man­ner.Wewill be­gin from po­lit­i­cally trans­form­ing it via the elec­tion of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly. Let’s make it a fo­rum for con­struc­tive,mean­ing­fu­lan­dresul­to­ri­ented ac­tion. It is nec­es­sary that wede­vel­opthe­habitof­workingand mov­ing to­gether while en­gag­ing in fair com­pe­ti­tion.”

In­di­aim­me­di­ate­ly­wel­comedthe pro­mul­ga­tion of an in­terim con­sti­tu­tion and the for­ma­tion of the in­terim leg­is­la­ture in Nepal, but cau­tioned that the process of arms man­age­ment and ver­i­fi­ca­tion with U.N. as­sis­tance must be “cred­i­ble and com­plete be­fore the for­ma­tion of the in­terim gov­ern­ment.”

The U.S. Em­bassy wel­comed the de­vel­op­ment, say­ing on Jan. 16: “We hope it will lay the ground­work for free and fair elec­tions to a Con­stituent As­sem­bly and move the coun­try to­ward full-fledged and last­ing democ­racy.”

Echo­ing In­dia’s line, it also said, “The United States sup­ports com­ple­tiono­fa­cred­i­ble­and­trans­par­ent process of arms man­age­ment, su­per­vised by United Na­tions mon­i­tors, be­fore an in­terim gov­ern­ment of Nepal is formed.”

The Seven-Party Al­liance and the Maoists had fi­nal­ized the in­terim con­sti­tu­tion Dec. 16 but waited un­til Jan. 15 in or­der to pro­mul­gate it si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the start of the process of arms man­age­mentofNepalArmy,pre­vi­ously theRoy­alNepalArmy,andthePeo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army of the Maoists.

The in­terim leg­is­la­ture is over- whelm­ingly tilted to the com­mu­nistswitht­wom­a­jor­com­mu­nist­par­ties — the Maoists and the Uni­fied Marx­ist-Lenin­ist — com­mand­ing 83 seats each while the other three mi­nor com­mu­nist par­ties have 16 seats.

An­a­lysts say that if the com­mu­nist par­ties agree, they can amend the ar­ti­cle of the in­terim con­sti­tu­tion that leaves the sta­tus of monar­chy sus­pended and abol­ish the monar­chy out­right with­out wait­ing for the re­sults of Con­stituent As­sem­bly elec­tions. They can also change the gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship, since Mr. Koirala’s Nepali Congress party holds no more than 85 seats in par­lia­ment.

The­new­par­lia­men­twith­its­size­able num­ber of Maoist rep­re­sen­ta­tives looks quite dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. The Maoist party in­cludes 31 women and 52 mem­bers­fromdis­ad­van­taged­com­mu­ni­ties.Ithasal­sonom­i­natedadis­abled­per­so­nand17mem­bers­from fam­i­lies who lost a rel­a­tive dur­ing the in­sur­gency.

The par­ties that sup­ported King Gya­nen­dra’sab­so­luterule,andeight other mem­bers of the ex­ist­ing par­lia­men­twhoop­posedtheApril2006 pop­u­larupris­ing,arenot­in­cludedin the new leg­is­la­ture.

The Maoists and the seven par­ties were bit­ter en­e­mies un­til they signed a 12-point mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing (MoU) in Novem­ber 2005, cre­at­ing a loose al­liance to jointly fight the ab­so­lutism of Gya­nen­dra.

The MoU led to huge an­ti­monar­chy protests in April 2006 that forced Gya­nen­dra to re­in­state the dis­solved par­lia­ment, yield power to the seven-party coali­tion, with­draw from ac­tive pol­i­tics and be­come pow­er­less.

Cre­ation of the in­terim leg­is­la­ture was made pos­si­ble af­ter nine months of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Maoist rebels and the SPA coali­tion gov­ern­ment that pro­duced a peace agree­ment and in­terim con­sti­tu­tion, end­ing 11 years of Maoist in­sur­gency.

TheMaoistssought­toshareinthe gov­ern­ment, but Mr. Koirala in­sisted that the rebels could not be part of the gov­ern­ment un­til their com­bat­ants laid down their arms.

As part of the peace agree­ment, theMaoist­sagreed­top­ut­their­com­bat­ants in seven camps and lock up theirarm­sin­con­tain­er­sun­der­close U.N. in­spec­tion.

Thein­ter­im­con­sti­tu­tion­that­took ef­fec­tJan.15sus­pend­edthe­monar­chy un­til the June con­stituent as­sem­bly elec­tions. The in­terim con­sti­tu­tion trans­ferred the cer­e­mo­nial power and author­ity en­joyed by Gya­nen­draashead­of­s­tate­tothe­of­fice of prime min­is­ter un­til the fate of the monar­chy is de­cided by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly at its first meet­ing.

An­a­lysts say Maoist par­tic­i­pa­tion in the po­lit­i­cal main­stream makes pos­si­ble peo­ple’s rule through a con­sti­tu­tion drafted by the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Nepal watch­ers cau­tion that us­ing a Con­stituent As­sem­bly to draft an in­clu­sive con­sti­tu­tion is an up­hill task, given Nepal’s po­lit­i­cally frac­tious en­vi­ron­ment.

Un­til a year ago, the idea of Maoists join­ing the demo­cratic frame­work­was­no­ton­lyun­think­able but also laugh­able for many ob­servers, even though rebel lead­ers said they were fight­ing for a “demo­cratic repub­lic,” rather than for a “peo­ple’s repub­lic.”

Crit­ics in monar­chi­cal cir­cles con­tinue to sus­pect Maoist pol­icy is a tac­ti­cal ploy, but cen­trist schol­ars like Lok Raj Baral, a re­tired pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science, said the for­mer rebels must “prove their demo­cratic cre­den­tials” even af­ter they have joined the demo­cratic frame­work.“In­Nepal,”heob­served, “even demo­cratic par­ties have at times failed to ful­fill their re­spon­si­bil­ity. So it will take time for the Maoist­stochangein­toa­full-fledged demo­cratic party.”

Ob­servers are con­cerned that vi­o­lence could rise be­fore elec­tions if monar­chists and Hindu ex­trem­ists in Nepal or in In­dia seek to pre­vent the elec­tions. An­a­lysts sus­pect that monar­chists were be­hind a re­cent out­break of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence by Maoists in south­east­ern Nepal de­mand­ing a sep­a­rate, in­de­pen­dent state for peo­ple liv­ing in the south­ern plains ad­join­ing In­dia.

Sec­tar­i­an­vi­o­len­ceinthe­ab­sence of a strong gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to come un­der con­trol once the Maoist­sarepartoftheCabi­netafter the com­ple­tion of arms man­age­ment, ex­pected to­ward the end of Jan­uary or in early Fe­bru­ary.

Kuldip Na­yar, an In­dian au­thor andsyn­di­cat­ed­colum­nist,de­scribed Nepal’srev­o­lu­tion­as­peace­ful,un­like in­France.Ina­nar­ti­cleti­tled“Never for­get Kath­mandu,” pub­lished Jan. 10, Mr. Na­yar wrote: “Both King Gya­nen­dra and the king­ship, once held sa­cred, have been thrown into the­dust­bi­nofhis­to­ry­with­outanyvi­o­lence. There was no guil­lo­tine, no stormin­goftheBastille,noMadame Therese De­farge [. . . ]. None among the op­pres­sors was even touched.”

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Nepalese lit can­dles in Kat­mandu, Nepal on Jan. 16 to cel­e­brate the en­try of for­mer Maoist rebels into the po­lit­i­cal main­stream af­ter a decade of civil war.

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