All is not lost. Despite the doom and gloom that followed the Maoist walkout of the government and the inability of the three main parties to prevent a poll postponement the door to resolution is still ajar.
The polls have been put off, not cancelled. It will probably be held within the year (2064, not 2007) which means April at the latest. The special session of parliament next week will have to agree on a compromise formula acceptable to hardliners in both the NC and Maoists: a pledge on republic and a commitment to hold elections by Chait. This time the parties will not want to make the embarrassing mistake of specifying an exact date.
That will save the day. But it won't save the seven parties from the opprobrium of the Nepali people who feel the leaders they catapulted to power with the April Uprising are frittering it all away in endless and needless bickering. Across the country in FM talk shows and phone-ins, the people are blaming kangresis and Maoists for letting them down once more. Even so, the public is patient and understanding enough to see that a proper election is better than a flawed one which the Maoists boycott or disrupt.
Only in Nepal can you have a political development in which no one wins, everyone loses. The poll postponement hurts the UML because it was the only party that was ready to face voters. The NC probably hoped a delay will allow them to regroup in the tarai but that is unlikely because instability will breed more radical groups that will eat into its traditional vote bank. The Maoists got what they wanted, but they don't fare any better in a postponed poll because they are unlikely to change their spots. Even the king doesn't really gain much because it just prolongs the uncertainty about his future.
But the biggest losers are the Nepali people who feel cheated and let down. It will be very difficult for the parties to collectively win back that trust. The people also lose because they are the first to suffer from the instability and violence caused by extending the political transition. Already the tarai is at a standstill, there has been little movement along the East-West Highway between Dang and Jhapa for the past three weeks.
The poll postponement will encourage more groups using identity politics to gain recognition, and these fissiparous groups will only weaken an already feeble state.
But this is Nepal and we'll probably muddle through with that inexplicable resilience that makes us overcome odds.