Nepal Maoists ready to quit government if Koirala doesn’t

June 3rd, 2008 - 7:44 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 3 (IANS) Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas, who won a stunning victory in the recent election and were staking claim to form the next government, have threatened to quit the coalition government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala if he fails to resign by Wednesday. “We are mentally prepared to quit the government,” Maoist lawmaker and politburo member Dinanath Sharma told IANS.

“If by Wednesday Koirala fails to resign and pave the way for the formation of a Maoist-led government, we see no rationale in remaining in the old dispensation.”

Maoist chief Prachanda, who had announced his intention of assuming Koirala’s post, and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai flew back from western Nepal to start emergency talks with Koirala in the capital.

A showdown is imminent between the Maoists and the two other major parties, both of which suffered a shock defeat in the April election.

The Maoists have won 220 seats out of 575 while Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), the ruling party since the 1990s, could muster only 110 and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) came third with 103.

Adversity forged an alliance between the two defeated parties, who are now jointly demanding a change in the constitution before they hand over power to the Maoists.

At present, Nepal’s constitution decrees that a government can be formed or toppled only if two-thirds of the members of the newly elected constituent assembly desire it.

The two parties want to bring it down to a simple majority so that they can keep a tight rein on the Maoists.

They also want Prachanda to give up his designation as supreme commander of the Maoists’ guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army, contending that the head of government can’t wield the gun.

“It is undemocratic and dictatorial,” Sharma said. “Two parties, who were rejected by the electorate and unitedly have only 37 percent seats while the Maoists on their own have 38 percent, are trying to go against the public verdict and impose their own will.”

The two parties are also opposing the Maoist proposal that as the largest party, they should be given the posts of both prime minister and president.

The feud, that in the past helped former king Gyanendra seize power and is an inherent trait of Nepal’s political parties, has come in the way of giving full shape to the constituent assembly.

The house requires 26 additional members to be nominated on the basis of consensus among the parties.

However, it was forced to hold its first meeting on May 28 without the 26 members since the squabbling parties failed to reach an understanding.

The Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, Tuesday met Prachanda to urge him for a consensus government.

Wednesday will prove critical.

Prachanda has been warning repeatedly that his party will start another street agitation if Koirala fails to resign by Wednesday.

The deepening rift between the Maoists and the two parties has also thrown a cloud on the formation of a new constitution.

On Tuesday, the 25 parties that are represented in the assembly were to meet and decide how to conduct the next meeting of the constituent assembly that has the grave responsibility of drafting a new constitution in two years.

However, the meeting could not be held as the Maoists boycotted it.

“Such a start makes one wonder if the constitution will be drafted at all,” said former deputy prime minister Amik Sherchan, whose People’s Front Nepal is also a member of the ruling alliance.

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