|LEAVING HOME: Madhesi civilians like these in Birpur were still fleeing Kapilbastu for India earlier this week because of fears of being attacked by pahadis backed by Maoists.|
There is nothing like elections and Dasain holidays to focus people\'s minds, which is probably what forced the NC to finally unite on Tuesday. This in turn has prompted the other parties to try to clear roadblocks in the runup to elections.
It hasn\'t been easy. Seven party leaders met in marathon sessions all Thursday to thrash out a compromise that would assuage Maoist concerns. A broad agreement was reached in the morning to call for a special session of the interim parliament to pass a resolution on a \'Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal\' that would formalise a commitment of all parties to be ratified by the elected constituent assembly after November.
But by afternoon, it was clear Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal couldn\'t convince his hardline comrades Ram Bahadur Thapa and Mohan Baidya to accept this. The two are insisting on a "package deal" that would include a formal declaration by parliament on republic and a full proportional election.
The NC\'s unity and party declaration to go for a federated loktantrik republic helped untangle the issue somewhat. Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Koirala held a one-hour meeting on Thursday afternoon but failed to agree on Koirala\'s compromise on both contentious issues: a parliamentary resolution to be ratified later and an electoral system that would guarantee the Maoists more seats.
The election issue is critical for the Maoists because they feel they\'d fare poorly in direct elections, and want to ensure a minimum representation. Dahal is reported to have admitted to the prime minister he was under pressure from within his party. Although a pre-poll division of seats would be irregular and undemocratic, some party leaders say they see no problem as long as it will bring the Maoists into the mainstream.
The seven parties also agreed on Thursday to launch joint election-related meetings over Dasain in the districts to ensure maximum participation of the public in polls. This agreement is significant considering continued violence between UML and Maoist cadre in various parts of the country in recent days, and an announcement by various Maoist-affiliated ethnic groups to intensify street protests.
The real enemies of the seven parties are militant groups who have called for a poll boycott, and elections are only possible if they stand together.