Portfolio Seniority Dispute Derails Interim Government Formation

Contrary to widespread expectations, the interim government couldn’t be formed today because of the UML introduced seniority bargain.

Who is senior between Ramchandra Poudel and Sahana Pradhan? Who should come first in the cabinet list? [We mentioned RC’s name first based on alphabetical order, by the way.] Nepali Congress thinks its general secretary is senior where as CPN UML firmly believes its senior leader is senior. Poudel is a former Speaker of the parliament and former Deputy Prime Minister where is 79 year old lady started her political career almost 6 decades ago. Her political background is enough to make her qualify for the number second in the cabinet, UML argues. According to C P Mainali of Left Front, a coalition partner, Nepali Congress had expressed its interest in nominating its member on the second position after PM. “At a time when even Maoists have abandoned their demand of appointing DPM from their party and Nepali Congress has expressed its intention of keeping second position with itself in yesterday’s meeting,” Mainali told KTV, “UML’s today put forward a name of the senior former minister and stressed that she should be given the number 2 ministerial position.”

Here UML is clearly acting like a problematic child. After accepting Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala as the Prime Minister who isn’t very well and clearly needs an aide from his own party to run the government it’s childish for the UML to argue for a mere issue like seniority of a minister in the cabinet. It is worthy of mentioning that recently UML had proposed Sahana’s name for the ambassadorial appointment for Russia. Meanwhile, Ramchandra Poudel refuted the report that Nepali Congress had objected the UML’s choice of Sahana Pradhan to lead the party in the government. “Mr Koirala asked me to assist him as a senior minister in the cabinet as he is not very well,” he told KTV. “How could I reject the request of my party president? But Nepali Congress has no problem with Sahana Pradhan. It’s UML’s right to send whoever they want to send to the cabinet.” Poudel hoped that the unexpected problem would be solved through conscious by tomorrow. Another problem came in the form of Amik Serchan who said his party wasn’t consulted while distributing cabinet portfolios. Serchan is DPM and Health minister in the current cabinet. Big four parties have agreed on removing the post of DPM which means it will be almost impossible for him to continue as minister because of seniority problem.

Contrary to widespread expectations, the interim government couldn’t be formed today because of the UML introduced seniority bargain. Diplomats had reached to the parliament this morning to witness the oath taking ceremony. They returned as politicians failed to reach conscious and the meeting of parliament was cancelled for the straight second day. Huge media presence was witnessed in the parliament and at least two TV stations had planned to broadcast today’s parliament session. Prime Minister Koirala will head for New Delhi tomorrow 4 PM to take part in SAARC meeting. Let’s hope, we will see the new interim cabinet by then!

Common Minimum Program of Interim Government of Nepal

Political parties (members of Seven Party Alliance and the Maoist) yesterday (30 March) finalized the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of the interim government that will be formed today. The leaders also gave final touches to the code of conduct for ministers, a commitment paper for creating a conducive atmosphere for elections and guidelines for the future coalition. They decided to set up a committee to maintain coordination among the ruling parties. In the CMP, the parties have given top priority to promotion of national interest, loktantra and progression; improvement of security situation; change and reforms in all state systems and immediate relief for conflict-hit people. Major points in the Common Minimum Program are:

– CA polls in free and fair manner by mid-June
– Promotion of competitive politics, human rights and press freedom
– Strict implementation of peace accord
– Formation of peace and rehabilitation, truth and reconciliation, and state restructuring commissions
– An action plan to democratize the Nepali Army, a special cabinet committee to oversee, integrate and rehabilitate Maoist combatants
– Proper management of Maoist cantonments
– End to all sorts of red-tapism and corruption
– Nationalization of royal property
– End to strikes and bandas
– Reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure
– Education and health institutions to be peace zones
– Creation of investment-friendly environment, strong action against willful defaulters
– Common development strategy and effective social reforms and welfare programs

The parties also finalized a code of conduct for ministers. The code includes:
– Immediate ouster of ministers involved in corruption
– All political appointments based on political consensus
– Implementation of eight-party decisions major duty of ministers
– No public comment on matters of cabinet debate
– Respect for a coalition culture

The parties agreed to bring the country’s situation to normal as a means to create a conducive environment for polls. The agreements include:
– The Maoists will stop extortion and intimidation, return sized
– Both government forces and Maoists will leave all forcefully captured buildings
– All weapons outside cantonments will be declared illegal
– Joint committees to be formed in districts for monitoring agreements

The parties will form a United Coordination Committee (UCC) at the center to assist the government in implementing the CMP in coordinated manner. Parties’ senior leaders will be members in the UCC. The common programs, government’s operation guidelines, code of conduct for ministers and parties’ commitments to peace will be made public on Saturday after an eight-party meeting.