Left-FSFN coalition talks still inconclusive

March 5, 2018 07:10 AM Republica

KATHMANDU, Mar 5: Leaders of the ruling left alliance and the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) held two rounds of talks on Sunday to finalize a coalition deal but the negotiations ended inconclusively, according to the leaders.

The meetings, which were expected to give concrete shape to the understanding reached between the two sides, ended without drafting a proposed deal following differences over portfolio allocation in the new government.

In the separate meetings held at the prime minister's residence in Baluwatar and Singha Durbar on Sunday, the left alliance leaders had expressed commitment to address FSFN's concerns over constitution amendment and allot three ministries to the tarai-based party in the new government. But leaders said they could not reach consensus on the issue of the ministries and on FSFN Chair Upendra Yadav's demand for deputy prime ministerial portfolio. 

FSFN has staked claim over three ministries - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Planning. In addition to that, the party has also demanded the post of either deputy president or deputy speaker. 

UML Chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and FSFN Chair Yadav are expected to hold meeting on Monday to sort out the differences, according to UML leader Subas Nembang. FSFN Co-chair Rajendra Shrestha said that time constraint of top leaders had prevented them from holding substantial discussions.  

Despite the differences on power-sharing, leaders from both sides are positive of an agreement on a number of thorny issues including the constitution amendment. 
FSFN, the fifth largest party in parliament, has technically owned up the constitution in its current form, but has long maintained that some provisions of the constitution have to be revised for wider acceptance.

One of the main FSFN demands includes a revision of Article 274 of the constitution in such a way that it would make it easier to redraw the federal boundaries in the future. The party has also stressed on the need of a federal commission to resolve all disputes pertaining to federal boundaries. 

Rather than giving concrete pledges on the revision of boundaries, Prime Minister KP Oli and Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal have given assurance to revise the constitution if its "need is justified”. The proposed accord on the statute revision will not warrant change in the boundaries but both sides are eager to hammer out a deal without any delay. 

For the left alliance, a coalition pact with the FSFN allows strong chances to run the government with relative political stability. It will also help the left restore the trust of Madhesi constituents who remain skeptical of the alliance due to its stance on constitution amendment.

It could possibly pave way for the left to join the government in Province 2, the sole plains-only province where the left alliance is not in power, or have greater influence in the governance of the province.

For the FSFN, a party in charge of the government in Province 2, it is the best chance to be a part of one of the most powerful governments in Nepal's history which are expected to be in power for a full five-year term.

The left alliance has also reached out to another Madhes-based party, the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, for possible collaboration. 

In a meeting held with RJPN Coordinator Mahanta Thakur late on Sunday, PM Oli had requested the later to join the government. Leaders said RJPN has also shown readiness to join the government if their concerns are addressed. 

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