ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Breaking a Consensus

The non-Maoist coalition repudiates an agreement that saved Nepal from a constitutional crisis.

Two years ago, Nepal witnessed a revolutionary transition from a monarchy to a republic. The task of writing the constitution of the new republic was left to an elected constituent assembly (CA), which was supposed to finish its work by 28 May this year. Yet, political squabbling, an inability to reach a consensus on vital issues and a general environment of mistrust meant that the deadline was sure to pass without a constitution having been adopted. The critical issue confronting the main actors – the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) [UML] and the Nepali Congress – was whether the term of the CA could be extended for a specific period. A consensus was reached last month at the eleventh hour when the three parties managed to wring out a three-point agreement that extended the CA by a year, reiterated a commitment to cooperation in completing the peace process (as per the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006) and committed the parties to the formation of a national consensus government with the resignation of the incumbent prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. The agreement was supposed to have finally brought to an end the confrontation between the Maoists and the other main parties, which started with the resignation of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kumar Dahal ‘Prachanda’ from the prime minister’s post last year over the issue of civilian supremacy.

All political parties had to cope with internal and external pressures before reaching the agreement. Among the Maoists, one current favoured a return to “peoples’ war” and to an insurrectionist mode. But that current had to bow to reason for, nonextension of the CA would have dealt a blow to an institution that had come into being because of Maoist persuasion. Some cynical status quoists among the UML and the Nepali Congress also favoured a lapse of the CA, but were thankfully overruled by others within their parties. In the end, the extension was passed in the CA with an overwhelming number (580) in favour and five against.

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