Consensus distant as ever as extended deadline looms
THIRA L BHUSAL
KATHMANDU, Dec 4: Talks among the leaders from major political parties on finding a common prime ministerial candidate to lead new election government have made no headway even as the extended deadline given by the president for political parties is expiring on Friday.
Leaders are holding meetings, but those privy to the developments said consensus seemed elusive as they are not holding focused and concentrated negotiations.
President Ram Baran Yadav last Thursday extended deadline for one more week to find a common candidate as demanded by leaders from the key political forces. He agreed to give more time as leaders failed even to narrow down their differences during the weeklong timeframe given by the head of state previously.
Solutions appeared to be nowhere in sight as members involved in inter-party negotiations point fingers at each other instead of bridging their differences. While opposition Nepali Congress leaders accuse ruling UCPN (Maoist) of being a stumbling block in the process of forming consensus, Maoists attribute Congress´s rigidity for the logjam.
"The ruling side is all out against forming consensus government because they don´t want to face election. They want to defer it under one excuse or the other," argued NC leader Ram Sharan Mahat. "The ruling leaders´ irresponsible act and their indifference toward forming consensus government is the main reason behind the ongoing deadlock."
While describing ruling UCPN (Maoist) as the only stumbling block in forging consensus, Mahat claimed that his party commanded broader support from all other political parties from opposition as well as ruling alliances. "Even some key leaders from the ruling Madhes-based parties are ready to support NC to lead the new government," said Mahat.
However, UCPN (Maoist) spokesman Agni Prasad Sapkota countered the argument claiming that leaders from his party were making serious initiatives toward forging a political agreement.
"Problem lies in Congress leaders because they are sticking to their demand that only their party should lead the election government while ruling out any possibility of our party to head such a government," Sapkota told Republica. He argued that Congress leaders have no convincing logics why UCPN (Maoist), even being a largest elected party, can´t head an election government.
Sapkota claimed that his party was showing flexibility in offering options for solutions. "We accept NC leadership if they are ready to reach a political deal in a package-- comprising government leadership, defining fundamental issues concerning state restructuring and contents of new constitution," he explained. "Congress doesn´t want to end the deadlock in political understanding."
Hardening the party´s stance in the recent days, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is lobbying in transforming the present government into a consensus coalition, an idea that would only irritate major opposition parties such as NC and CPN-UML.
Dahal also claimed that some leaders from NC and UML were eager to join the present coalition. But Mahat rubbished Dahal´s statements terming them baseless propaganda spread with an intention to prolong their stay in power and avoid election.
Echoing Mahat, CPN-UML´s Bhim Rawal finds the major problem in UCPN (Maoist). "The present political stalemate is due to irresponsible act by the ruling Maoist party. No headway is possible unless Maoist chairman Dahal and Prime Minister Bhattarai take some concrete steps to pave the way for forming consensus government," said Rawal.
Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya believed that the ruling parties had gained upper hand from the president´s move as the head of state called for consensus prime ministerial candidate only after endorsing the budget ordinance. "Introduction of budget in advance cushioned the possible blow for the ruling side," said Acharya.
While terming the ruling Maoist party as an obstacle in forming consensus, Acharya found the situation was still not ripe for change of guard. "Along with domestic factors, regional as well as other international forces have still not made up their minds with regard to change of guard at Singha Durbar," he said.
Despite their dithering over government leadership, it is likely that leaders from all the sides will agree on making one more request to the head of state to extend the deadline yet again.