After Fighting For 10 Years, Maoists in Nepal are Hours Away From Joining Government

Finally, political parties have won the ‘fight for the balance of power’. Or have they?

By Dinesh Wagle

Paulo Coelho might have no idea at all about Nepali politics but his lines in the best selling “The Alchemist” tell all about the current situation in the Himalayan nation. Here I extract a paragraph from the book in which the leader of the caravan tells to the travelers:

“We don’t know when the war will end, so we can’t continue our journey. The battles may last for a long time, perhaps even years. There are powerful forces on both sides, and the war is important to both armies. It’s not a battle of good against evil. It’s a war between forces that are fighting for the balance of power, and, when that type of battle begins, it lasts longer than others- because Allah is on both sides.”

In yet another historical development in Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that launched violent insurgency for 10 years beginning from 1996 is hours away from joining the interim government. This has happened after series of intense negotiations among the coalition partners and the Maoist. The interim government, that will be formed tomorrow if nothing super extraordinary happens, should have been formed on 1 December 2006 according a landmark agreement reached between the ruling Seven Party Alliance and the CPN Maoist in November 2006.

The Interim Cabinet of Nepal

Nepali Congress

Girija Prasad Koirala Prime Minister and Defense Minister
Ram Chandra Poudel Minister for Peace and Reconstruction
Dr Ram Sharan Mahat Minister for Finance
Krishna Prasad Sitauala Minister for Home Affairs
Mahantha Thakur Minister for Science and Technology

CPN-UML

Sahana Pradhan Minister for Foreign Affairs
Pradip Nepal Minister for Education and Sports
Chhabilal BK Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives
Ram Chandra Yadav Minister for General Administration
Prithvi Subba Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ram Chandra Yadav
Mohan Singh Rathaur State Minister for Education and Sports

CPN (Maoist)

Krishna Bahadur Mahara Minister for Ifnormation and Communication
Dev Gurung Minister for Local Development
Hisila Yami Minister for Physical Planning and Works
Matrika Yadav Minister for Soil Conservation
Khadka Badhadur BK Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare

Nepali Congress (Democratic)

Narendra Bikram Nemwang Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Ramesh Lekhak State Ministers for Labour and Transport Management
Gyanendra Bahadur Karki State Minister for Water Resources

Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandidevi)

Rajendra Mahato Minister for Commerce, Industry and Supply

United Left Front

Jagat Bahadur Bogati Minister for Land Reforms and Management

(this list was updated on 1 April)

But the timetable set in that agreement experienced delays in every aspect. No interim parliament was formed on time and interim constitution wasn’t announced on time as well. Whatever the case, people in Kathmandu are relieved to hear the news that parties have agreed on the cabinet portfolios n which, it seems, Nepali Congress will play the shot. Nepali Congress has retained all ministries considered major (Home, Finance and Defense) and there will be no Deputy Prime Minister (another idea of Koirala). But it seems Maoists are happy with the arrangement.

The interim government, to be headed by Nepali Congress president and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, will have the primary responsibility of holding the election of Constituent Assembly on time, that is, by mid-June 2007. This will be the single biggest challenge for this government in the wake of recent violent protests in southern Nepal. Formation of the interim government and holding the election of Constituent Assembly are part of the peace process. Maoist and the government have already signed a comprehensive peace agreement. Maoist has put its arms and guerillas in seven cantonments across the country. Many hardliners, including those who are soft to the royalists, strongly believe that the Maoists are not honest to the peace process because they didn’t put all of their arms in the containers (cantonments) while others think that it’s impossible to expect from any former guerilla force to expect to containerize their 100 percent arms. Another issue strongly raised by the Prime Minister’s party Nepali Congress is that the Maoist hasn’t returned lands and properties it confiscated from many people across the rural areas during the insurgency.

Krishan Bahadur Mahara, the man who headed the Maoist team to negotiate peace with the SPA government formed after the popular April 2006 uprising, will head the Maoist party in the interim cabinet. Mahara will have the responsibility of Information and Communication ministry according to Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. The Maoist party will have five portfolios in the cabinet.

With the formation of the interim government, the “fighting for the balance of power” has only entered to the next round. This fight isn’t like the one we saw in April 2006 that ended in 19 days (that too after rounds of failed attempts) as that was “a battle of good against evil” and good emerged victorious against evil. The fight for the “balance of the power” will continue until the fragile peace process will safely landed. And we know that will take a lot of efforts from all warriors. Good luck to the interim government!

Election Commission Invites Parties to Register

30 March: Even as uncertainties rule over the exact date of the election of the Constituent Assembly, the Election Commission today invited the political parties who want to contest in the Constituent Assembly elections to register themselves at the commission. At a press conference organised in the capital today, EC officials said the process of registering the political parties will begin from Saturday (March 31) and end on April 27. CA election is constitutionally slated for mid-June.

Chief Election Commissioner Bhojraj Pokhrel told reporters in a press conference in Kathmandu today that all parties wishing to contest the elections will have to apply for registration within the stated time with at least 10,000 signatures. The new constitutional provisions require both the old and new political parties to register at the EC. The parties that are currently represented at the interim parliament do not need to produce 10,000 signatures. They can simply re-register themselves. Pokhrel further informed that the verification of the signatures submitted with the parties’ registration applications would be completed within a week of the closing of the registration process. When asked whether the elections were possible within the stipulated time, Pokhrel said: “Our job is to prepare for the elections.”