Sunday, April 27, 2008

From Where To Eternity?

From Sikkim, Bhutan and Fiji we’ve transitioned to Algeria and Gaza. Despite being the largest party in the newly elected assembly, the Maoists are not quite sure they would get to head the government. Subverting the popular mandate could have consequences more devastating than those that erupted in Algeria in 1991. The Islamic Salvation Front wasn’t known for its capacity for mayhem before the election.
As for Gaza, at least Hamas has a sympathetic Egypt. For the Maoists, the most Jimmy Carter could ever do is help withdraw the US terror tag. That won’t keep the supply lines open, especially when you’re under the constant vigilance of both neighbors. No wonder the Nepali Congress, still dazed by its electoral drubbing, is scheming to keep the premiership.
The Maoists, mortified by the mandate for change, have been exhibiting strange symptoms. No sooner had party chairman Prachanda decided to take the premiership from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai than he began speaking of a “graceful exit” for King Gyanendra. Struggling to keep his composure, Dr. Bhattarai tried to do one better by seeming to acquiesce in a cultural monarchy. That was too much for Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’, who tugged the debate back to the non-residual theory of post-monarchism.
With better half Hisila Yami preoccupied with wooing India, Dr. Bhattarai did the next best thing to register his displeasure. He simply moved out of Prachanda’s residence. (Fears of the “preventive detention” phase preceding the 12-point-agreement in November 2005 must have played some part.)
If Dr. Bhattarai is indeed in some form of disfavor, proletarians vexed by his insistence on wearing the Dr. prefix must be among those most delighted. Yet loyalists can’t afford to squander time on the man either, especially when the party is under multi-pronged assault.
By rejecting the resignation of cousin Sushil as acting party chief, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has given us a foretaste of his appetite for incumbency. This time, he can count on a unified party. (Unified Marxist-Leninist [UML] general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal made his own graceful exit because his position was more untenable.)
With our perpetual premier-in-waiting out of the way, the Nepali Congress and the UML want to do away with the two-thirds majority provision in the interim charter vis-à-vis the new government. A vote-of-no-confidence by a simple majority may or may not be able to tame a Maoist government. But such a provision would surely do some good to legacy-driven Koirala’s spirits, considering his own travails with Tanakpur-era supermajorityism.
Nepali Congress vice president Gopal Man Shrestha’s stipulation must have come as more startling to the Maoists. If Nepalis couldn’t tolerate the supreme commander of the Royal Nepal Army as head of government, how would they countenance the People’s Liberation Army’s counterpart? Consigning all those weapons to the beyond-use stage may not be enough. The one-man-one uniform rule must prevail to consummate the novelty of a new Nepal. More so with the Supreme Court just having endorsed the proclamation made by the now-defunct reinstated House of Representatives that stripped King Gyanendra of most of his royal powers, prerogatives and privileges.
If not Algeria or Gaza, then where do we go from here? Things might drift along until the Beijing Olympics. Amendments to the interim constitution as well as to the assorted documents known collectively as the peace accords could remove the roadblocks.
And who knows what might come of that meeting between Prachanda and King Gyanendra? A decision to organize a referendum on the monarchy? How much more egalitarian can the outer edges of the left and right get than that?