Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press

Prime Minister Koirala said before the elections that the government's composition should be intact for ten more years. He didn't campaign in the polls because of his head of state status. He is on the PR list of the NC, but said he would bow out of active politics.

All that was before the results started coming of the Maoist sweep. The question is not anymore about who has a majority but who can clobber a two-thirds majority. When the constituent assembly sits, there will be a need to appoint a 'ceremonial' president. It would be difficult to make the executive Maoist prime minister also serve as president, and the other parties may want
a say.

There is a strong possibility that the Maoists will ask Koirala to serve as president. This will reward him for his leadership role in the peace process as well as allow the Maoists to reassure the domestic and international community. The only question is whether a person whose party as well as his family has lost in elections will be in the frame of mind to accept. He will be under pressure from within the party to bear some of the responsibility for the defeat by having appeased the Maoists. The Maoists may therefore have to look for a respected democratic face to be head of state.

The UML, NC, Nepal Army, and especially India and the US may not be comfortable with a Maoist government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, but they can't reject him outright either. India helped the Maoists abandon the bullet for the ballot, and will have to live with the consequences of the Maoist electoral win, and so will the American administration which faces a Democratic challenge this year.

So the day may not be far away when the army chief has to salute Dahal and make his regular briefing. For an army that has rejected integration with the PLA, this will not be easy. If the Maoists make integration a prestige issue, the army will have to go along with it or look for acceptable alternatives.

In his victory speech, Dahal appeared responsible and ready for a leadership role. He accepted multiparty democratic competition and also stressed seven party unity. On the economic front, he will be forced to be pragmatic. On constitution drafting he has no option but to cooperate with the other parties. And he can't allow his YCL free rein as they have now. The more responsible Dahal makes himself, the more public credibility he will gain.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)