With the swearing in of Madhav Nepal, the UML leader, as Nepal’s new Prime Minister, the rupture in the pro democracy movement is now complete. Erstwhile ally, the former PM Pushpa Chnadra Dahal “Prachanda” termed the new PM as a poisonous weed!
Though the CPN(Maoists) have stated that they would oppose the alliance of parties including Nepali Congress, CPN(UML), Madhaheshi parties, they have stated they would fight for “civilian supremacy” and would continue to help put a new constitution.
The current crisis is the direct result of clash between the Cabinet lead by Prachanda and Rukamangut Katwal, the Chief of the Royal Nepal Army. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) had envisaged that the Maoist militia would be formally inducted into the Army, something that Katwal refused to do. To add to this, he also started new recruitments to the Army and decided unilaterally to extend the tenure of 8 brigadiers, who were facing retirement.
Therefore Katuwal’s actions were not only in violation of basic tenets of constitutional democracy, but also in violation of explicit provisions of the peace accord.
Katuwal’s actions were not an isolated act of insubordination. He was one of the officers of the Royal Nepal Army, who had been indicted for human rights violations during the 2006 movement that finally overthrew the monarchy. Obviously, the Royal Nepal Army never reconciled itself to civilian supremacy. Prachanda moved for sacking of Katuwal, which was rejected by the President Ram Baran Yadav, again in violation of basic tenets of parliamentary democracy.
Unfortunately, the split within the ranks of the alliance partners, now played into the hands of the Army Chief. Even though the Cabinet had CPN(UML) members who agreed with Prachanda, they later supported the stand of the President. Finally, this lead to the resignation of the Prachanda as PM., the breaking up of the coalition, and swearing in of the new dispensation lead by Madhav Nepal.
In Parliamentary democracy, coalitions break and reform. The danger here is that this is only a Constituent Assembly, whose task is to write a constitution. The second is to undermine civilian rule right at the outset and allow an instrument of a discredited monarchy to retain power.
The monarchy in Nepal was thrown out only due to a massive peoples’ movement. After the massacre of the Royal family in 2001, Gyanendra came into power. He dismissed successive civilian Governments and launched highly repressive measures. It was the coming together in 2005 of the seven party alliance fighting the king with the Maoists that the pro democracy movement proved irresistible. Finally, in April 2006, the King was forced to agree to civilian rule and hand over power. The agreement with the Maoists in which the Maoists agreed to give up military struggle and join the peace process was between Girja Prasad Koirala, the Prime Minister and Prachanda, the leader of the Maoists.
The current Constituent Assembly charged with drawing up of the constitution of Nepal while also functioning as the parliament, has 601 members. While in the directly elected 240 seats, the Maoists had a majority and won nearly 40% of the vote, with the rest of the Parliament being elected through proportional representation, no party could rule on its own. The Maoists have 229 seats and are the largest block in the Constituent Assembly.
Obviously, the Nepal Congress and the CPN(UML) have not reconciled to their defeat in the Constituent Assembly. Ganging up against the Maoists with a General whose record is far from clean, is unlikely to help their cause.