Maoists to be included in Nepal’s new governing era
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.”
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.