|BOXED AWAY: PLA Deputy Commander Nanda Kishore Pun and UN Senior Military Advisor Jan Erik Wilhemsen discuss weapons storage details inside a container at the Maoist Third Divisional cantonment site in Chitwan on Wednesday.|
The next phase begins now for Nepal. The outcome of the coming few months will depend on how party politics plays out in the interim legislature, whether the interim constitution will hold, and how effectively the UN-monitored arms and army management will pave the way for reform of the security sector.
There are already signs that all eight parties are rolling their sleeves up for power struggles and perhaps horse-trading. It took them three days after the interim constitution was promulgated to agree on the Speaker. This was despite the agreement reached on Monday morning in Baluwatar to appoint an NC prime minister, UML speaker, and a Maoist deputy prime minister.
But the parties are yet to agree on how many deputy prime ministers should be announced, and there is wrangling on the allocation of ministries to parties, as well as appointments to parliamentary committees.
Inside parliament, the parties are not in their final configurations. If the NC and NC(D) were to unite, they would have a significant advantage, though that could be countered by an admittedly unlikely Maoist-UML coalition in a parliament that, for the first time in Nepal's political history, already has a leftists majority. If speculation of a backroom deal between the NC and the Maoists, and possible high-level defections from the UML to the Maoists bears out, the UML will in effect be frozen out. What could result from this is a reasonable-sized opposition, though, which the current parliament lacks.
Parallel to the everyday business of party politics, the critical issue of arms management and verification of fighters has already begun. The criteria for verification are still fuzzy. Not everyone who walks into a camp in uniform will be a bonafide guerrilla, and an inflated count of the Maoist army will affect any proposed integration of PLA members into the Nepal Army. Determining the exact organisation of the PLA is also essential.
If managing both sides' armies is on the cards, there is no information on what will happen to the now-bloated NA. The paramilitary Armed Police Force, which should have limited utility in a post-conflict scenario, is instead, according to the peace agreement, in readiness to provide election-time security.
With the verification process now started, the monitors will have the chance to clarify a number of these factors, especially with regard to the PLA. The parliamentarians will have to find the time between power struggles to ensure the conditions for a free and fair election.