Back from the brink

  • Parties must avoid another round of public posturing and sincerely pursue consensus
Back from the brink

Feb 15, 2015-

The past few weeks have witnessed increasing tension between the political parties and increasing polarisation in society. For a while, it seemed as though the ruling and opposition parties were heading towards direct confrontation. Now, however, there is a slight ray of hope. The ruling parties seem to have decided that an attempt to pass a constitution through a majority vote could backfire in the face of the opposition’s boycott. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has taken the wise decision of once again trying to negotiate a new constitution through consensus. Last week, he issued a public appeal asking the opposition to return to the negotiating table. This gesture was rejected as being insufficient by the opposition. More recently, CA Chairman Subhas Nembang indefinitely postponed CA meetings, which had been scheduled in order to take the voting process forward. The opposition has been somewhat more open to this overture. The fact that UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal met PM Koirala on Saturday is indicative of the opposition’s softening position. It is a matter of great relief that the political parties seem to have pulled back from the brink. Top political leaders should now capitalise on the situation and once again urgently resume negotiations on a new constitution.

While the parties seem more amenable to negotiations, the situation has not yet completely stabilised and could relapse into confrontation. Sections of the opposition parties are still not convinced of the ruling parties’ intentions. They fear that what seems to be a softening of positions on the side of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML is in fact a ruse meant to weaken the opposition’s protests. The ruling parties should immediately take measures to dispel these suspicions. The opposition is demanding that the ruling parties publicly announce that they are committed to drafting a constitution through consensus. This could be a way of assuaging opposition suspicions. If this is not acceptable to the ruling parties, an alternative way of placating the opposition could also be negotiated.

What should be avoided at all costs is another

round of grandstanding and posturing by the parties so as to pressure their rivals. Such posturing can have damaging impacts on the negotiation process, especially at a time when relations between the parties are so frayed. It should be recognised that the current moment offers a rare opportunity, which may not be repeated. If the parties fail to create a conducive negotiation environment this time, and the ruling parties continue with the voting process and the opposition with its protests, confrontation will intensify and it will be difficult for the parties to pull back and return to the negotiating table. What should be remembered is that the parties were very close to a deal on January 22. They should pick up negotiations where they were left off on that date and make a sincere attempt to reach compromise.

 

Published: 16-02-2015 08:51

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