Nepal’s Maoists struggle with dissent ahead of swearing-in

August 18th, 2008 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 18 (IANS) An ethnic politician’s warning to Maoist chief Prachanda that his prime minister’s “crown” came with thorns proved true with the former rebels still struggling to satisfy their allies and name a new government ahead of the swearing-in ceremony Monday. With just a few hours left for Prachanda to take oath of office and secrecy as Nepal’s 50th prime minister, the former insurgents realised politics was far more difficult than guerrilla warfare with its two key allies, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) locking horns over portfolios and refusing to sign the common minimum programme (CMP) that was to have been made public in the morning.

The battle began last week with the two allies eyeing important ministries like home, water resources and information and communications and refusing to relinquish their claim.

Though the Maoists had earlier planned to swear in a 23-member cabinet along with Prachanda Monday afternoon, now it seems a nearly impossible task.

Both allies are also fighting over the post of deputy prime minister, which may lead to it being scrapped.

Though the three parties had agreed on a CMP Sunday that focussed on issues like drafting a new constitution, rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed during the 10-year Maoist insurgency and disclosing the whereabouts of the people missing since then, the MJF and UML refused to sign it Monday, saying the allocation of ministries would have to be finalised first.

Dissent and infighting among the parties have been a key characteristic of Nepal’s politics and, in the past, enabled deposed king Gyanendra to seize power with the help of the army.

Now the Maoists, who gave former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala a tough time with their demands and threats, are getting a dose of their own medicine.

Both the UML and MJF, who had deserted the Maoists in an earlier presidential election last month, have acquired the reputation of being unstable partners and raised questions about the stability of the new government.

There is also speculation that Koirala would refuse to go into political retirement and might try to topple the Maoist government.

“I give them only two months,” he told a family gathering recently, according to Nepali tabloid Jana Aastha.

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