|ROUNDTABLE: Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai with UNMIN's Ian Martin and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Robert Piper, at a meeting with the donor community on Thursday. US ambassador Nancy Powell is at left, and China's empty chair in the foreground. |
The final results of the 10 April elections now in, the Maoists will be the largest party in a hung assembly and will need help to form a new government.
In the past week, Maoist leaders have been engaged in hectic lobbying with the parties. They have also tried to reassure the business community and Nepal's donors not to be spooked by their radical rhetoric.
Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and deputy Baburam Bhattarai were invited to a regular monthly meeting of the UN with the Nepal-based donor community on Thursday. Diplomats quizzed the Maoist duo about the party's policy on foreign aid, the budget, education policy, army integration and the monarchy.
Seats set aside at the closed door meeting for representatives from China and India were empty. American ambassador, Nancy Powell, was present but didn't ask anything. The US State Department said on Tuesday that there was no move to lift the Maoist terror tag, but hinted there could be a review.
"We reassured our foreign friends that we are not a doctrinaire party, we are not against privatization and globalization and will pursue a mixed economy," Dahal told the press after the meeting.
Speaking at a panel discussion on Tuesday organised by Nepali Times, Maoist shadow foreign minister C P Gajurel said his party was going to be much more efficient about using foreign aid. "Unlike in the past when aid did not reach the people because of institutionalised corruption, every penny of foreign aid will henceforth directly benefit Nepalis," he said.
Gajurel was sure his party would lead the next government and stake its claim to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Home Ministry, Finance and Defence.
Also speaking in the panel was Markus Heiniger from the Swiss Foreign Ministry. "The lesson from Nepal's peace process is that all stakeholders need to be included," he said, "all the parties must be on board as the government moves towards conflict transformation."
Gajurel said his party would overhaul the education system, but clarified: "It's not our policy to close down private schools."