Nepali Times
All together now


Nearly one year after he wrested power away from an elected prime minister, King Gyanendra is now poised to discuss a truce with the political parties.

The king returned to Nepal this week after nearly 17 days to find his country again on the brink of war, and his subjects fearful and apprehensive about the future. The Nepali public is afraid that the Maoists are about to demonstrate their military clout by unleashing a new round of slaughter. Recent bombings and assassinations in the capital are seen as a sign of things to come.

The king is expected to use the next week to get back up to speed, while the parties take a rest from their vigorous defiance of a government ban on assembly. By late next week, the king is expected to meet political leaders in 'tea party' diplomacy to find common ground. The main purpose of such rapprochement will be to send the Maoists the message that constitutional forces are now united.

If the Maoists are truly serious about a political solution, this new unity will help in reaching a concrete agreement in any future talks to end the insurgency. If they are not, it will prove that the Maoists really want a military settlement, and the government can respond accordingly. It is likely that the Maoists will try to drive a wedge between the parties and the king in the coming weeks.

As in the past, however, it will not be easy for the parties to reach an agreement on the formation of a new government, and the king may also find their proposal unsatisfactory. Girija Prasad Koirala's demand that parliament be reinstated will not be easily acceptable to the king, since it will make Koirala and his Congress too powerful for the palace's liking.

The king may therefore listen more to the UML, RPP and the Deuba Congress. The UML may have gone along with the Congress to fight 'regression', but it would prefer to have an all-party government under its own leadership. Koirala agreed to endorse Madhab Kumar Nepal as prime minister in return for political favours, but that promise may now have lapsed.

Being so close to power, it is also likely that the parties will start bickering again and the palace could try to take advantage of this. However, the situation has changed from the last time the king tried to find a suitable premier: there is unprecedented international pressure on the parties and palace to patch up. Both have realised that they can't deal with the Maoists alone.

In addition, there has been a shift in the American position from unquestioned support for the king's hawkish actions to a position that is closer to the Indian stance on accommodation between the parties and the king. This new convergence has yielded a 'roadmap' that is still a bit murky. But after next week's meetings it may clear up sufficiently for us to see the way ahead.

Rajendra Dahal is the editor of Himal Khabarpatrika.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)