A directionless Nepal has been at the crossroads for quite sometime now. The king, political parties and rebels that are supposed to be the guides are themselves confused. Their ideas for a way out of the present crisis have only complicated matters. The king seems to want an active monarchy, the government wants talks with the rebels failing which elections by a deadline, the rebels want elections for a constituent assembly and some of the parties want a reinstatement of parliament.
The first alternative has the least scope. The king may desire direct rule but it will be difficult for him to remain in power after that. After his October Fourth move, he has had even more problems on his hands. In effect, he had to gear down his ambitions in order to remain a power centre. He faces pressure from foreign powers. In the long run, the king's popularity will decline among people who have no role in these messy games.
The idea of peace talks and elections is the 'outlet' advocated by the present government and its allies. But coalition partners are divided. Ministers and political parties in the coalition government have opposed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's pledge, as ordered by the king, to hold elections. The rebels have rejected the government's invitation for talks. No one believes elections can be held without peace.
As far as the Maoists' demand for constituent assembly is concerned, it is not going to happen anytime soon because there needs to be a consensus on the need for one. All power centres including the king will have to accept the roles given by the constitution prepared by the people's representatives.
As long as the present political equation remains, the constituent assembly does not appear a possibility. Either the rebels have to win or they will have to reach an agreement with one of the remaining two forces. But the Maoists have neither emerged winners nor have they been so weakened as to surrender or reach an agreement. To go for constituent assembly, the stalemate will have to drag on into a prolonged phase of violence.
At face value, the fourth idea-reinstatement of the parliament-is not desirable. The mandated tenure of the dissolved House of Representatives has expired but those supporting the idea believe it impossible to hold elections. They argue that the reinstatement of the house would help bring the constitution back on track. Those opposing the idea say that the reinstatement of the house would not make any sense because the parliament has failed to face challenges.
Reinstatement is not possible, it is argued, because the Supreme Court has verified the validity of the dissolution of the House of Representatives. But the fact remains that parliament was dissolved on condition that elections be held within six months, the same condition at the Supreme Court considered when it approved the decision of House dissolution. Since the condition of the elections has not been met, the house can be reinstated and the court's decision does not appear to be an obstacle. Our constitution has not envisaged a situation with no parliament for more than six months. The argument that the reinstatement of the house would violate the spirit of the constitution, therefore, is not valid.