The present political crisis is not a result of deadlock in parliament. It is because the leaders of the three main parties are unwilling to strike a compromise.
The Maoists are not a party that is governed by a belief in elections, and they still believe in the use of physical force. On the other hand, the NC and the UML do not have the power of conviction in themselves as democratic parties to be able to persuade the Maoists to change their ways.
The main reason for the current stalemate is therefore not a disagreement about a republic or electoral procedures. That is only what appears on the surface. Deep down, the main reason is the gap in trust and the differing political cultures and values of the two sides. So, unless these deep-seated issues are tackled, elections will not happen. And even if they do, the constituent assembly will not be a workable body.
There are five ways to end this deadlock:
First, the NC and the UML must embark on a long-term effort towards unity of democratic forces. What binds them together is a common belief that only a democratic system will strengthen the nation, and their shared belief in the democratic transformation of the Maoists.
It is the unity of the NC and the UML that makes seven-party unity possible. That is what made the April Uprising successful, and the 12-point agreement with the Maoists possible. Without their unity, we wouldn't have seen an end to the royal dictatorship, nor an end to the 10-year war.
Whenever the two parties have allowed themselves to forget the need for their unity and have fallen out, the democratic achievements have been weakened and the peace process has started to unravel. Neither party believes in the force of arms. They don't need violence to come to power, and both believe in the parliamentary system and a sovereign people. These common values give their unity a solid strength.
Second, the longer this deadlock continues, the more it helps regressive elements. The strategy of both right and left extremists is to weaken the moderate middle path. But what the Maoists must also understand is that they suffer the most from postponed elections and a deadlock will create the conditions for democratic forces to move ahead without the Maoists.
Third, the NC and the UML must finally realise that neither will benefit from making each other weaker. The more vulnerable the democratic parties, the weaker democracy becomes.
Fourth, the seven parties must now set up a neutral caretaker government for the elections. This government's main job will be to ensure security and hold elections. The interim parliament must be dissolved and the caretaker government should be a small, efficient and streamlined team. The seven parties can't stay on indefinitely in government without holding elections.
Fifth, there should be a separation of powers between the head of state and head of government. The two must be different people. This is necessary because of the special circumstances in which we find ourselves and also to ensure judicial independence.
Nilambar Acharya is a constitutional expert, political thinker and former Nepali ambassador to Sri Lanka.