Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Referendum ?

.The visible forces who want to stop the elections are the Maoists. They consider the 13 November elections to be meaningless and have promised to disrupt voting. They have already launched several activities to this end. And yet, they continue to say in their statements that they will not oppose elections if they were to see them as fruitful. However, let it also be clear that there has been very little consistency between what the Maoists have been saying and what they have been doing, as a result of which, their credibility has been questioned by all political parties, and also the people at large.

.Ten of the main political parties in the country are saying that the constitution needs to be improved through changes in order to safeguard the gains of the 1990 People's Movement for democracy. The Maoists, who began their struggle aiming to dismantle the existing state and replace it with a communist regime, also say that they are willing to agree on multiparty competition and protect the gains of 1990. Even the parties that champion parliamentary democracy have begun to believe this. The Maoists now need to clearly explain what they mean by what they have been saying, especially whether they are only articulating the compulsions of the present, or whether they are basing their assessment on the existing political balances. In the same manner political parties need to explain what they mean by the 'gains of the 1990 movement'. What are the issues they want protected? What are the limits to the constitutional reforms they are talking about?

.It is also necessary for both government and the Maoists to learn lessons from the last negotiations. The Maoists are to be blamed for the breakdown because they made certain the suspicion that they were not serious about talks by just walking away. But the government was also to blame-despite everything, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was unclear about the direction of the talks, as well as the limits on what was negotiable. The Prime Minister believed that the Maoists could be satisfied by social and economic reforms alone, he did not want to analyse seriously the political issues raised by the Maoists .

.We're talking about talks again, and it is now necessary to try to take the negotiations in the right spirit. It is not enough to talk about talks or create pressure for talks. The first necessity is to have clarity on the basic principles we are talking on and for. Also there is a need for honesty on both sides if the talks are to yield a solution. What the Maoists, who want a communist republic, have to be aware of, is that not only the Nepali Congress and the UML, even the other communist parties are opposed to ending Nepal's monarchy. Also not just the Congress and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, even His Majesty may have no reservations about making the legal and necessary constitutional changes to give continuity to the institution of monarchy. . It is not that the Maoists don't understand this, which is why they have to acknowledge the reality of politics of Nepal. Otherwise both the nation and the people will lose.

The political agenda now is to find a peaceful resolution. Lately the Maoists have also been talking about a peaceful political resolution. Now the establishment (the government and the political parties) need to be ready to assess the Maoist campaign and their statements. The Maoists can also test the seriousness of the establishment by declaring a unilateral ceasefire. For this, the political parties need to propose the inclusion of a provision in the constitution that would allow a referendum if a two-thirds majority of parliament wants to seek a vote of the people on any matter of national interest. For this, the ten political parties that have come together must make commitments to include the issue of a referendum in their election manifestos, and also collectively get the prime minister to agree on the idea.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)