Nepali Times
State Of The State
Who is cornering whom?


Renewed amity between the UML and Maoists has succeeded in pushing the provisional head of state into a corner. Even though GP Koirala sensibly abstained from voting in the special session of the interim parliament, he faces the unenviable task of choosing between an unpalatable decision and an unacceptable vacillation.

While most parliamentarians want a republic and proportional representation, these two proposals don't command the required two-thirds majority in the legislature. So, even if the government introduces constitutional amendment bills on these matters, they are bound to fail.

In which case, parliamentary tradition holds that the UML-Maoist coalition will have to consider either bringing a no-confidence motion against the prime minister or resign en masse, forcing the premier to declare fresh elections.

If Koirala vacillates over the directives of the interim parliament, he may have to consider obtaining a new vote of confidence in the legislature, which will require a two-thirds majority. But faced by the UML-Maoist unity, he won't get that. Having to chose between ignominy and disgrace, he would then have to resign. But that would create even more problems. The peace deal signed between the then seven-party coalition and Maoists would become redundant.

With the emergence of polarised politics in the interim parliament, Koirala is damned if he does pursue the policy directives of the House, and doubly damned if he doesn't. Madhab Nepal is breathing down his neck as the bemused Maoists watch from the sidelines.

But the recently reunified NC is unlikely to follow his dictates without a fuss. The monarch and the Maoists are lesser problems for Koirala. It is critics within his own ranks who will pose the main threat to his leadership in the days to come.

He raised a very valid point recently: everything that has happened since the postponement of the constituent assembly elections has helped Gyanendra reoccupy the ground he has been so desperately seeking since the April uprising.

Whether it's part of yet another \'grand design' or merely the unfortunate fallout from the Maoists' foolhardiness is a matter of conjecture. But it is clear that the more the interim constitution is amended, the weaker grows the legitimacy of the NC, UML and Maoists. So, even as Messrs Nepal and Dahal and their comrades think they have succeeded in cornering Koirala, they are becoming cornered themselves.

The interim parliament is by definition a collaborative enterprise. When lawmakers meet next week for the winter session of parliament, they will have to make a tremendous effort to bridge the divide between leftist and non-left forces.

Until the CA elections are held, no political force can afford to consider prolonging the status quo. Any interim arrangement is inherently wobbly: it's the flexibility of the actors on the platform that prevents the structure from falling apart. There is no place for political wrestling on this temporary stage. All political contests must be left to the campaigning for the CA elections.

Fortunately, there is ample space in the directives of the special session to forge a consensus on the elections. Parliament can adopt republicanism with the caveat that it needs to be confirmed by the constituent assembly before its implementation.

The question of proportional representation is slightly more complicated. The parties must design a consensual model that ensures an adequate presence of marginalised communities and neglected regions. There is no precedent of such an arrangement anywhere in the world. This is an opportunity as well as a threat that lawmakers will have to deal with during the coming session.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)