|LAND OF MILK AND MONEY? A tea vendor outside Kathmandu airport in front of a billboard welcoming tourists to Tibet. The Chinese ban on visitors to Tibet has hurt Nepal's tourism industry.|
What a difference a week makes. With the future turned upside down, the victorious Maoists and the defeated parties are finding it difficult to cobble together a coalition.
Nepal is going to be new, but what is it going to be like, how is it going to be built, what elements of the old Nepal will prevail? Much of this will be decided by the constituent assembly over the next two-and-half years. The fact that this assembly reflects Nepal's diversity and has more women than ever before will mean that people who never had a say will have their voices heard.
Most analysts explain the Maoists' win as the people's reward for making these elections their agenda, for having given up the armed struggle and for being the party most likely to steer this country towards a peaceful and prosperous future.
State-restructuring may be the easy part, because there is consensus on the broad parameters of republicanism and federalism. But already, the Maoists are finding it difficult to convince the parties they defeated to join in a coalition government.
Stung and humiliated by their rout, the NC and UML have retreated into their shells and have refused to join the government. "It would not be democratic," says one UML candidate. Some NC members who won are said to be keen to join the Maoist-led government. But the party is under strong pressure from cadre not to join.
Said one senior UML source: "By being a part of the government again, we risk being blamed for everything that goes wrong while the Maoists take credit for everything that goes right."
What has not helped is that even after elections, Maoist cadre are still up to their old tricks. They beat up Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat in Nuwakot on Monday and have been blocking supporters of other parties from attending re-polling in some centres.
Proponents of a joint government argue that since this was not a general election, the alliance needs to stay intact. The constituent assembly and the country's economic problems are too serious to be tackled alone, they say, even by a party that has won so decisively. The coalition will also have to accomodate a new party: the MJF.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been trying to lobby other parties to join in, and has said he doesn't want to "go at it alone". The other issue has been of the choice of head of state. Koirala has turned down Dahal's suggestion that he take up the ceremonial position, and several other candidates have also said no.
Dahal met Madhab Nepal of the UML on Thursday morning, but Nepal refused to be swayed. Sources say the NC is willing to be convinced to join.