KATHMANDU, Dec 18: The much-anticipated deal among major political parties could not be forged on Monday as the ruling and opposition parties remained adamant in their respective positions.
The opposition parties insisted that the prime minister´s exit should be the first step toward sealing a deal in a package while the ruling party leaders, mainly Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, insisted that he would step down only if the opposition parties cooperated with him to amend election-related laws and constitutional provisions through ordinance and to fix the election date.
Undeterred by the opposition´s demand, the prime minister is urging the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML to join the present government for the purpose of recommending to the president to amend the constitution and prepare the ground for fresh elections.
But the opposition parties rejected outright the proposal to join the present government. “The proposal to join the caretaker government is ridiculous,” said CPN-UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel.
Leaders close to the prime minister spoke of the NC and CPN-UML´s rigidity in their one-point demand for the prime minister´s exit. “There is a logjam because the opposition parties have been insisting only on the one-point demand for the prime minister´s resignation. Baburam Bhattarai´s exit and Sushil Koirala´s nomination to prime minister can´t end the broader political deadlock,” the prime minister´s political advisor, Devendra Paudel, told Republica. “The prime minister wants to step down after ensuring that elections will be held in the coming spring.”
Ruling party leaders also argued that just as the opposition parties suspect the UCPN (Maoist) of not wanting to leave office, the ruling parties also have doubts about the NC leadership holding CA elections once they head the government.
“Ensuring the ground for elections before handing over government leadership to the NC is essential because the NC is not sincere about holding CA elections as drafting a new constitution through the Constituent Assembly is not the party´s priority agenda,” Paudel said. “Once a NC leader is elected prime minister, the government will keep on avoiding new CA polls because the president is also from the same party.”
The opposition parties, however, want the prime minister´s exit to be the starting point for forging consensus on a package including formation of a new government, power-sharing in the new coalition, amending election-related laws and constitutional provisions through ordinance, fixing the a new election date, and determining the number of members in the new parliament, among other things.
“In the ongoing discussions, there is a broad understanding on major political issues and we have to delve into the details,” Pokharel explained.
The opposition parties want the immediate exit of the Bhattarai government, formation of a national unity government under the leadership of NC President Sushil Koirala and entrusting of the new government with responsibility for removing election-related constitutional and legal complications and holding fresh CA polls.
They want to reach a political understanding among the major parties on amending election-related laws and constitutional provisions and mandating the new government to forward ordinances to the president for the purpose.
Leaders close to Bhattarai claimed that the UCPN (Maoist) would not be ready to join the NC if the latter rebuffs the proposal to join the present coalition. But leaders from opposition parties argued that they can´t simply join the present coalition not only because it is already in a caretaker capacity but also because they were betrayed by Bhattarai when they joined the present government back in May.
In May, NC and CPN-UML leaders had briefly joined the Bhattarai government but they quit the coalition within a couple of days following differences on major provisions in the new constitution and the model for delineating new provinces in the would-be federal setup.
At the time, the NC and CPN-UML joined the Bhattarai government on condition that the ruling Maoist party would later join a NC-led consensus coalition. The prime minister´s decision to announce new CA polls without extending the erstwhile Constituent Assembly tenure resulted in the collapse of the interparty deal.