Thursday, October 11, 2007

News Editorials: Another Mayhem Ahead in Nepal?

Observation: Secretaries’ appointment is based on the principle of inclusion?

The office of the prime minister and cabinet secretariat and the members of cabinet claimed that today’s secretaries appointments are based on the principle of inclusion. In this regard, one of the colleagues got opportunity to ask a member of minister council informally, who was very furious and disappointed with appointments as his recommendations were in dustbin.
Our colleague asked, “How your cabinet’s mates expressed that these appointments are based on the principal of inclusion?” He replied, “Inclusion means equal and respectful representation of each and every ethnic group in mainstream, as per their ethnic population ratio. Thus, these 8 parties have a remarkable inclusive representation, hence the officials appointed today as government secretaries are the active members of the concerned political parties, and they have also submitted their active membership transcript with huge supportive commitment to the concerned parties and leaders. It’s transparent that they are the political representative of 8 parties and their leaders except a few, as per the advocacy made by 8 parties, they signify whole nation, and they stand for the whole Nepal without having any authoritative consent or vote. Moreover, secretary’s composition also somehow balances ethnic and social titles, besides; they even have strong commendation from the top party brasses as their obedient and honest workers.
In addition, you should also know that Inclusion doesn’t care about senior or junior in any political or professional affairs, inclusion just consider multiparty political or utterly defined representation in Nepalese context, that preside over in today’s’ appointment. Therefore, it is factual and no-nonsense to shout that it is not based on the principal of inclusion; however we both are acknowledged of what happened and what would have been principally fair.
According to him major bases of appointments:
  1. Joint secretaries (senior or junior or performance appraisal doesn’t matter).
  2. Must hold the active membership transcript one of the persisting political parties.
  3. Financial and other French profitable commitments to the concerned political parties and leaders.
  4. Powerful recommendations from at least 10 members of interim parliament and 3 of cabinet.
  5. Special commitment for always “Yes men” and “Je Pani garchhu” for concerned parties and leaders.

Structure of Inclusion:
.... 16 secretaries have been automatically promoted from their posts of acting secretaries while three from Madhesi and one each from women and backward community with special provisions. Those who are promoted include Purna Prasad Kadariya, Shankar Prasad Koirala, Baman Prasad Neupane, Shyam Prasad Mainali, Arabinda Kumar Shrestha, Pyurushottam Ojha, Rameshwor Prasad Khanal, Chhabiraj Pant, Bhagwati Kumar Kafle, Baburam Acharya and Uday raj Sharma.
Similarly, Umakanta Jha, Lilamani Poudel, Balananda Poudel, Tana Sharma, Ramhari Aryal, Kishor Prasad Shah, Punya Prasad Sharma, Ram Kumar Shrestha, Sushil B Rana, Gyan Chandra Acharya, Brinda hada, Tej Bahadur Thapa, Ramsorobar Dube, Govinda Prasad Kushum, Dip Bahadur Swar and Shankar Prasad Pandey
have also been promoted to the post of secretaries.............

News Editorials: Another Mayhem Ahead in Nepal?
News editorials, from Nepal and abroad, suspect that Nepal may be headed toward another spell of political mayhem.

A sample of editorials follows. More editorials updates to follow on this page.

Poll vault
Nepali Times, From Issue #370 (12 October 07 - 18 October 07)
All is not lost. Despite the doom and gloom that followed the Maoist walkout of the government and the inability of the three main parties to prevent a poll postponement the door to resolution is still ajar.
The polls have been put off, not cancelled. It will probably be held within the year (2064, not 2007) which means April at the latest. The special session of parliament next week will have to agree on a compromise formula acceptable to hardliners in both the NC and Maoists: a pledge on republic and a commitment to hold elections by Chait. This time the parties will not want to make the embarrassing mistake of specifying an exact date.

That will save the day. But it won’t save the seven parties from the opprobrium of the Nepali people who feel the leaders they catapulted to power with the April Uprising are frittering it all away in endless and needless bickering. Across the country in FM talk shows and phone-ins, the people are blaming kangresis and Maoists for letting them down once more. Even so, the public is patient and understanding enough to see that a proper election is better than a flawed one which the Maoists boycott or disrupt.

Only in Nepal can you have a political development in which no one wins, everyone loses. The poll postponement hurts the UML because it was the only party that was ready to face voters. The NC probably hoped a delay will allow them to regroup in the tarai but that is unlikely because instability will breed more radical groups that will eat into its traditional vote bank. The Maoists got what they wanted, but they don’t fare any better in a postponed poll because they are unlikely to change their spots. Even the king doesn’t really gain much because it just prolongs the uncertainty about his future.

But the biggest losers are the Nepali people who feel cheated and let down. It will be very difficult for the parties to collectively win back that trust. The people also lose because they are the first to suffer from the instability and violence caused by extending the political transition. Already the tarai is at a standstill, there has been little movement along the East-West Highway between Dang and Jhapa for the past three weeks.

The poll postponement will encourage more groups using identity politics to gain recognition, and these fissiparous groups will only weaken an already feeble state.

But this is Nepal and we’ll probably muddle through with that inexplicable resilience that makes us overcome odds.

URL: http://www.nepalitimes.com/issue/370/Editorial/14036

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Katmandu Crisis
The Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2007
Nepal's road to democracy has never run smooth, but soon we'll see if there's even a road at all. Parliament convenes today to discuss the political demands of the Maoists, who have brought the democracy process to a standstill. If the talks fail, the fragile peace that has held for nearly a year may be in jeopardy.

Nepal's fate matters not just for the well being of the Nepalese, but also for regional stability. Should the Maoists succeed in scuttling the country's democratic aspirations and seizing a larger role for themselves, Nepal risks becoming yet another dystopian dictatorship and home for international terrorism. Neighboring India fears that its own Maoist insurgency could be exacerbated as Nepal's rebels act up.

The current impasse is over the elections for a Constituent Assembly, a representative body that is supposed to, in turn, agree on a new constitution and set up a new government. The Maoists agreed to lay down their arms and participate in the process last November. But last month rebel leader Prachanda imposed new conditions, demanding an abolition of the monarchy and a system of proportional representation before moving ahead.
The political brinkmanship threatens to derail the entire electoral process. Politically, however, it's in the Maoists' interest to stall because they likely wouldn't do well in elections under the current system, a mix of proportional and first-past-the-post ballots. Their unpopularity stems partly from historical grievances -- they fought a civil war for a decade that killed more than 13,000 people. But they also haven't proven that they want to negotiate. "If the impasse continues, the current constitution will become a scrap of paper," Prachanda warned Tuesday.

Unfortunately, the Maoists have the brute force to back up their threats. Although the rebel army has turned over thousands of weapons to United Nations control, no one really knows how many guns are still out there. Violence and unrest continue across the country, and the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League has been involved in beating up workers of rival parties and recently ransacked the printing presses of Kantipur Publication, Nepal's largest news group, allegedly over a labor dispute.

Meanwhile, the Nepalese people are the ones who are suffering the most. The southern plains of Terai are already awash in violence, with over 70 killed this year in caste- or religion-based clashes. A Nepali journalist was kidnapped on Friday in the restive region, allegedly by Maoists.

A weak central government has compounded these problems. Without a strong standing army, the central government has exerted little control over Terai, and is even having trouble ensuring fuel supplies to the capital, Katmandu. Its ineptitude has cost it the ability to win over former Maoist combatants, many of whom have not received the salaries promised in return for laying down their arms.

The Maoists and Nepal's seven other political parties have set out a political framework by which to move the democratization process forward. The Maoists' change of heart doesn't inspire confidence in their fidelity to free and fair elections. If Prachanda and his gang can't even hold true to their own agreements, how likely is it that they will be willing to bow to the will of the people and accept the results of a national vote?

URL: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119205227981055114.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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Clear the cloud
The Kathmandu Post, (Independent daily), October 10, 2007
The four-day-long UML deliberation left the second largest political party open to a referendum on the monarchy, proportional representative electoral system and declaring the country a republic through parliament. Many leftists within the UML have argued that "such an open-ended policy is an attempt to bring the Maoists into the political mainstream". This means the UML has taken a flexible stance: It is eager to go for the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls. In other words, the UML wants to call the shots. It can change its stance as the time demands. On the flip side, the NC central working committee meeting, held two days after the SPA government deferred the CA poll, has reiterated its earlier stance: Mixed electoral system and the issue of republic to be decided by the first meeting of the CA according to the understanding reached between the SPA and the Maoists before the latter joined the interim government.

The UML and the NC are apparently natural allies shouldering the responsibility of restoring peace and democracy. Both have demonstrated flexibility and nurtured democratic values. Unlike the Maoists who have flouted the pacts signed in the run-up to the formation of the interim government, both have stuck to their political commitment. So, both the parties will be held responsible if the peace process is derailed. Blaming the Maoists for the deferral of the CA poll will only weaken the SPA's strength. The Maoists, being an undemocratic party, cannot imagine coming to power through the electoral process. From the day they pledged to join mainstream politics, they have been struggling to establish a communist regime. The UML, therefore, should be aware that joining hands with the Maoists will jeopardize the peace process and the holding of the CA poll.

Prachanda's warning that the alliance could break in the wake of disagreement on diverging political issues spreads a chill of apprehension. The Maoists are hell bent on waging an urban guerrilla war to capture power. Prachanda's demand for a proportional representative electoral system and the declaration of a republic before the CA polls is an indication that the entire peace process is at stake. The Maoists have refused to budge on their conditions, which underline the fact that they do not believe in competitive politics. The special session of parliament beginning October 11 must give a way out of the current impasse. The participation of the Maoists in the CA poll is, of course, important. But the way they have taken advantage of the country's fragile political situation is misdirecting its political course. The special session must, therefore, clear the cloud hovering over the CA poll - whether the Maoists genuinely want open politics or they still dream of establishing a communist state.

URL: http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=125161

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Renewed Calls For Polls
The Rising Nepal, (A government-run daily), October 8, 2007
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has expressed displeasure over the postponement of the Constituent Assembly polls scheduled for November 22 and prevailed upon the parties to fix a new date for the elections to ensure that the democratic exercise is not deferred for an uncertain length of time. The dismay conveyed by the UN chief is obviously very natural and pertinent in the sense that the UN has been at the centre facilitating the peace-building process in the country. The United Nations has been extending unqualified support to the process of holding the polls to the Constituent Assembly in Nepal. The world body has established its full presence in Nepal. It has been backstopping and overseeing peace building and the democratisation process in the country. The UN chief Ban Ki Moon has always evinced keen interest in the peace and democratisation process in Nepal. At one end, the UN is involved in verification of the Maoist combatants to pave the way for their demobilisation and integration into the Nepal Army.

The global organisation has been putting its weight behind making the polls to the Constituent Assembly a success. It needs to be mentioned that the UN has been consistently helping the country to ensure that the election to the Constituent Assembly was held during November and a democratic and peaceful Nepal was constructed. UN voter education specialists have been at work to assist the Election Commission in designing and implementing a strategy for empowering the Nepali electors to make informed choices in the polls. Moreover, the UN has set up an advisory unit to provide technical and intellectual resources in the process of framing a new democratic constitution in the country. All these efforts and initiatives would yield no results should the political uncertainty and confusions continue in the country. It is expected that the political actors work in concert to warrant that the democratic scheme of holding the polls to the Constituent Assembly to decide about the constitutional design of the nation was not jeopardised. As appealed by the chief of the world body, the Nepalese political parties are under an obligation to assure that the polls to the Constituent Assembly was held soon to lend new credence to the democratic dispensation in the country.

URL: http://www.gorkhapatra.org.np/content.php?nid=28285

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United they stand
The Himalayan Times, Independent daily, October 8, 2007
Following the postponement of the constituent assembly (CA) elections, for a second time, scheduled for November 22, the seven political parties are trading accusations and counter-accusations in an attempt to pin down responsibility. Political outfits outside the alliance are blaming the seven parties or the leadership of the interim government. Powerful countries and organisations have expressed their unhappiness at the postponement. At home, the people appear to be disappointed, confused and uncertain about the future course of Nepali politics. While questions are being raised about Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s leadership failure and suggestions made for his stepping down, Nepali Congress general secretary Dr Ram Baran Yadav has said there is ‘no alternative’ to Koirala’s leadership, because ‘there is none other than Koirala capable of resolving the present crisis’. Yadav has put the blame for the deferral on all the seven parties.

CPN-UML leaders have accused the ‘old and ineffectual’ leadership of the Congress as well as the intransigence of the Maoists for the deferral, criticising both for letting the big opportunity to hold the CA polls slip by. The CPN-UML, the Janamorcha Nepal, and the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party had registered their note of dissent against the decision. Their and others’ worry about the CA polls, which have eluded the Nepalis for the past 57 years, is understandable, and their fears of a repetition of history cannot just be brushed aside. In this context, however, the view that just a change of leadership of the government cannot end the crisis has some truth to it, because it is rather the settlement of the issues that matters. That being said, moral responsibility weighs heavy; moreover, none of the seven political parties can lay a natural claim to this leadership role. But as the people have given the seven parties the mandate to steer the country’s transition, it is they again who should resolve this question collectively.

As the legislature-parliament convenes in a special session this Thursday to discuss and decide on the Maoist demands for outright declaration of a republic and switchover to full proportional representation, there is still time for the seven parties to save the situation by arriving at a consensus. Indeed, to this end, Koirala has continued consultations with the top leaders of the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist. More serious problems will come up if the parliament fails to find a way out. Admittedly, the poll postponement has given the forces of regression a breather, as the historic opportunity to decide the fate of the monarchy has been delayed, too. They had been jolted by the recent Congress decision to go republican. Fissures in the seven-party alliance will only strengthen these forces, and give them more time and opportunities for mischief. To keep them at bay, and bring the political transition to a logical conclusion in line with the mandate of Jana Anolan II, the seven parties need to make their unity rock-solid. The issues that led to the poll postponement should not be allowed to weaken it further.

URL: http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullstory.asp?filename=aEUata0seqzpba2a8a1a9a.axamal&folder=aEUaiFaoaraiaaal&Name=Editorial&sImageFileName=&dtSiteDate=20071008

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Who’s smiling in Nepal?
Khaleej Times Online, 7 October 2007
THERE’S little wonder that the political process in Nepal is back in a limbo, thanks to the failure on the part of the politicians to pull themselves together. The decision to indefinitely postpone the constituent assembly elections is fresh proof that politicians are unwittingly playing into the hands of the monarchy, and some are even taking pleasure in reversing the pro-people, pro-democracy trend there.

The move by the seven-party coalition government to call a “special session” of the parliament to discuss the demands raised by Maoists is in itself a proactive step, but, the end result, as is already seen, is the dragging of the poll dates, and eventual delay in effecting the constitutional changes necessary for the smooth progress of the democratic process in the Himalayan kingdom. The Maoists are aggressive in their postures and in their insistence that the abolition of the monarchy, a cause to which the political parties are openly wedded, should be immediate. They have a point in as much that there already are perceptible signs of sabotage from within the political establishment to the common cause.

What could be done now effortlessly might not be possible tomorrow. Foot-dragging might be the name of the game; and Nepal’s politicians are not known for their commitment to people’s causes, anyway. If anything, the political set-up there has been a byword for inefficiency and corruption, if past record is any indication.
It’s clear who’s smiling in Nepal now. The failure of the politicians was what had helped King Gyanendra to grab power from people’s representatives, for a period, leading, however, to a national upheaval, rare forging of unity between the political parties and the Maoist rebels, and eventual retreat by the king from the seats of administration a year ago. The calling of the times, today, is that the politicians must demonstrate an increased sense of responsibility to the people, and not let go of the golden opportunity that had arisen out of the unity they had forged with the Maoists.

Peace and prosperity are what the Nepalese are craving for. The politicians must pay heed and mend their ways.

URL: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?xfile=data/editorial/2007/October/editorial_October14.xml§ion=editorial&col=

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Nepal's Naysayers
The Times of India, 22 Sep 2007
The Maoists' decision to walk out of the interim government sets the clock back for Nepal's fragile democracy. Yes, the Maoist leadership has promised to press its demands peacefully. But the veiled threat to disrupt the polls scheduled in November to elect a constituent assembly doesn't augur well for the country. It is not clear why the Maoists have resorted to brinkmanship. There is speculation that it could be a fallout of differences within the party.

The G P Koirala government had agreed to most of the demands the Maoists raised in August. The point of departure was the call to declare Nepal a republic even prior to the constituent assembly. The Maoists should have desisted from pressing this demand since it was agreed in November last year that the constituent assembly would decide on such matters. The process to conduct elections to the assembly under international supervision is already on.

The Maoists' move to change track midway without giving tenable reasons raises questions about their commitment to democracy. Even though the Nepalese monarchy is dead for all practical purposes, an elected constituent assembly is the right body to announce the transformation of the country from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. A nominated interim government does not command such legitimacy.

The discredited king does not presently pose a challenge to Nepal's democracy. But another spell of political anarchy can destroy whatever is left of Nepal's economy and erode people's trust in democracy. Pakistan and Bangladesh have undergone similar phases and are the worse for it. The Maoists should realise their centrality to the democratic process in Nepal and act responsibly. The Maoists adopted multiparty democracy as a strategy sometime ago. The international community is watching if they would be true to the assertion.

New Delhi has much at stake in Kathmandu. There is apprehension that things could go out of control and lead to movement of people and arms across the border. Maoists in India are not enthused with the political line of Prachanda. The collapse of the consensus in Nepal should be to the liking of Indian Maoists and detrimental to peace in the subcontinent. New Delhi should prevail upon Prachanda and his colleagues to facilitate the constituent assembly.

URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-2391480,prtpage-1.cms

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[Note: The above editorials are lifted from the websites of respective newspapapers. If you own copyright to the above texts and would not like us to excerpt them, please email us at contact@nepalmonitor.com and we will immediately remove them from our website]

Posted by Editor on October 11, 2007 12:12 PM
http://www.nepalmonitor.com/2007/10/news_editorials_another_mayhem_ahead_in_nepal-print.html

K.P. Bhattarai on Republic Nepal



Source: BBC Nepali Sewa

UN envoy calls on Nepalese to turn election delay to their advantage


10 October 2007 – Nepal’s political parties should use the delay to the holding of Constituent Assembly elections to bolster the peace process by tackling its weaknesses and agreeing on a road map for ensuring that credible polls can take place, the senior United Nations official in the South Asian country said today.

Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told a press conference in Kathmandu, the capital, that the postponement should not be viewed as a disaster, but as an opportunity for the political parties, civil society and other Nepalese to try to bridge their differences and work more closely together.

“This requires dialogue not only among the seven parties [in the interim Government], but with marginalized groups, civil society and all democratic forces,” he said.

The elections were to be held on 22 November, but last week the interim Government announced that they were being delayed because of ongoing disputes between the Seven-Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M).

Once elected, the Constituent Assembly will draft a new constitution for Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people were killed during the decade-long civil conflict that came to a formal end when the Government and the Maoists signed a peace accord late last year.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council have both voiced disappointment at the delay and its impact on the political aspirations of the Nepalese.

Mr. Martin added today that there needs to be greater cooperation at the local level to ensure more effective governance and public security and reduce communal tensions, a renewed commitment by all to non-violent and democratic political activity, an independent monitoring of peace process commitments, and a concerted effort to address the future of Maoist combatants and the security sector.

“The United Nations is playing and will play the roles that are asked of it,” he said, stressing the importance of the Seven-Party Alliance sticking together.

Asked by a reporter about who deserved blame for the election postponement, the Special Representative said: “It’s not for the UN to blame anyone and indeed I hope that others, the political parties, will concentrate not so much on deciding who is to blame as on deciding what is to be done now, and, as I said, sustaining their Alliance in order to go forward.”

Mr. Martin said he believed “the current crisis has come about… as a reflection of deeper differences in perception and approach, and as a result of weaknesses in the overall management of the peace process.”

He cited the lack of progress within the Government in discussing the future of Maoist combatants, ensuring adequate commitments in the cantonments and starting serious talks on security sector reform as all contributing to Maoist concern that the Government is not fulfilling its commitments.

The reluctance of the Maoists to ensure that its Young Communist League stops using intimidation and violence is eroding public confidence in the CPN-M’s willingness to enter a democratic process.

“Meanwhile, many of Nepal’s traditionally marginalized groups remain concerned that commitments made to them are not being fulfilled. There is frustration by all communities in the Terai, and indeed across Nepal, about the poor state of public security… and without greater cooperation among the parties and civil society at the local level, the risk of communal tension and violence remains considerable.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/printnews.asp?nid=24251

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The fighting is over but pessimism rules

Election postponed, country's politics deadlocked by feuding parties, unco-operative Maoist militants

October 10, 2007
Tim Sullivan
ASSOCIATED PRESS

KATHMANDU–With 13,000 dead during more than a decade of fighting, there's at least one good thing Nepalis say about their country – at least there's no war now.

But nearly a year after Maoist militants left their Himalayan bases to join the political mainstream, raising hopes the government could finally govern, the country's politics remain deadlocked by feuding parties and overshadowed by the former insurgents.

In Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries, where most rural people struggle by in a semi-feudal existence, pessimism has become the rule.

"I was naive enough to believe that things would change," said former finance minister Devendra Raj Pandey. "I thought the parties would change, and that the Maoists would come around to accepting this new political reality.''

Instead, "They have all thoroughly disappointed the people in every sense of the word.''

When the peace agreement was signed in November, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala hailed it by saying "Nepal has entered a new era."

Prachanda, the Maoist leader, who goes by a single name, said in his speech that: "We will now turn to a campaign of peace and building a new Nepal.''

But little has been built so far.

The Maoists came into the government promising to concentrate on such issues as land reform and education. Instead, they face accusations of everything from forcefully recruiting new soldiers to intimidating political rivals and destroying voter education materials.

On Friday came one more disappointment. After days of arguing, the political parties and the Maoists agreed to postpone elections to the constituent assembly, which will draft the new constitution and map out the country's political future.

The election was originally scheduled for Nov. 22, but few expect it to be held before March.

It was the Maoists who pushed for the postponement, increasing pressure on the ruling alliance after quitting the government last month.

Nothing should happen, they say, until their demands are met. The monarchy, they insist, should be immediately abolished. They are also demanding procedural changes to the election system for the constituent assembly – modifications that appear aimed at ensuring they capture as many seats as possible. After first agreeing to polls with a mixed first-past-the-post and proportional representation system, the ex-rebels are now demanding full proportional voting.

On Monday, the Maoists proposed a referendum on the monarchy as a way out of a deadlock in the country's peace process.

"We don't really know what other options there are," senior Maoist ideologue C.P. Gajurel told Agence France-Presse after the ultra-leftists held high-level meetings over the weekend.
http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/265218

No move to send troops into Nepal: India

New Delhi, Oct 9 : India today debunked reports of any move to send troops into Nepal to help the government in Kathmandu rather than see Maoists seize power.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, while commenting on the remarks made by a retired Indian Army officer that India might send troops into the neighbouring country, said the retired General's observations did not represent the views of the Indian government.

''Whatever the retired General said, it does not in any way shape the policies of the government. His opinion does not represent the views of the Government of India. He speaks for himself,'' the Foreign Secretary said at a press briefing here.

Maj Gen (Retd) Ashok Mehta had said in an interview with the BBC Nepali service that India would be prepared to give military help to the government in Kathmandu rather than see Maoists seize power by force.

Meanwhile, official sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy on Indo-US civil nuclear deal and former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran will visit Nepal for two days from tomorow on a fire-fighting mission to have parleys with political leaders, including the Maoists.

Mr Saran, who has served as an Ambassador to Nepal earlier, will have discussions with Nepali leaders on the latest political situation in the Himalayan kingdom and on the need for an early election.

The sources said India would like to see quick and early election in Nepal and was always of the view that it is upto the people of that country to take a stand.

India's biggest fear is regarding any instability in its immediate neighbourhood, the sources said.
http://www.newkerala.com/oct.php?action=fullnews&id=9970

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Is Nepal's democracy in danger?

By Rabindra Mishra BBC Nepali service editor

A political crisis in Nepal is set to worsen after the postponement, for the third time, of elections for a Constituent Assembly (CA) that has to draw up a blueprint for the country's future.
Many analysts are doubting if the polls will be held at all.
They also say the latest postponement of the polls will only benefit the monarchy, which is ironic given that all the major parties have agreed on the abolition of the monarchy.
The Maoist rebels have been blamed for the postponement of the elections for coming up with two new demands:
That the monarchy be abolished immediately by the present, interim parliament
That the CA elections be held on a fully proportional voting system
Both the demands contradicted their earlier agreement with seven political parties who they joined in opposition to King Gyanendra.
The postponement of the polls should be viewed against the wider Maoist strategy.
Change
In their days as a guerrilla force, their fundamental strategy was to gain influence in the countryside before surrounding and entering the capital, Kathmandu, for a final strike.
A decade of insurgency left them dominating much of rural Nepal.
But when the Maoists realised intimidation and violence were less effective in Kathmandu, they changed their strategy.
In late 2004, they decided to work with mainstream political parties to further their goals.
The strategy received a boost when King Gyanendra sacked the democratic government and took over power in February 2005.
Enraged by the king's action, the mainstream political parties, who had in the past refused to collaborate with the Maoists, decided to accept the rebels into their fold.
Together, the Maoists and the seven mainstream parties took on the king in a series of street protests in April 2006 that resulted in the king handing back power.
In subsequent months, the Maoists became part of the interim parliament and the government.
They also went about gaining as much influence as possible in commerce, the media and other areas of public life in the capital.
So having established themselves in Kathmandu, they have one final objective left - to capture power.
Pressure
Most analysts agree that the Maoists have little chance of doing this through competitive politics. They have lost much of their influence in the countryside, and are unpopular in the cities.
From a position of rock-bottom unpopularity... the king's standing has been gradually picking up
That seems to be why they wanted November's elections put off.
In the meantime they will try to pressure other parties to agree to their demands for the immediate ending of the monarchy and for the CA polls to be held under a fully proportional voting system.
They have also shown an ability to outwit their opponents in a way that erodes the authority of much of the state.
It was the failure of the democratic parties, the king, the army and other security agencies which made the Maoists' journey to the capital possible in the first place.
Now they have reached a point where they seem able to put a break on a national objective like holding elections, something that virtually the entire country had agreed on.
This, many say, has severely weakened the public's confidence in its legitimate institutions.
Bloodshed fears
Many people have begun to talk about Nepal entering an era of either ultra-rightist (military or military-backed) or ultra-leftist (Maoist) dictatorship.
They are not ruling out bloodshed between the army and the Maoists, who have concentrated a large number of their members in Kathmandu.
The coming days and months are crucial for Nepal's fragile peace process.
So is the special session of parliament on Thursday which will look into various options to address the prevailing crisis.
It is understood that the army has already opposed the idea of the current interim parliament declaring Nepal a republic.
Sources say the army is also unhappy about Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress Party's recent decision to vote for the abolition of the monarchy when the Constituent Assembly meets.
The Maoists have now hinted that they are ready to compromise on the timing of the abolition of the monarchy.
But they look far less likely to compromise on the proportional representation issue.
Whatever is decided - and other options are up for discussion - the result could well need amendments to the constitution and relevant electoral laws.
From all this mess, it is King Gyanendra who is gaining.
From a position of rock-bottom unpopularity, when he had to give up power in April, 2006, his standing has been gradually picking up - thanks to the chaos and discord among the political parties and Maoists.
Some leaders now say that democracy in Nepal is in serious danger.
They are arguing that a broader coalition should be formed which would also take into its fold the pro-monarchy forces to stop the country from sliding into dictatorship.
But the wider held view is that a final showdown between the army and the Maoists in Kathmandu is more likely than ever.
If such a situation arises, nobody knows who will prevail.
However, one Indian expert on Nepal, retired Gen Ashok Mehta, believes that Delhi would be prepared to give military help to the government in Kathmandu rather than see the Maoists seizing power by force.
Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7033689.stm

Nepal, India lose billions after election postponement

KATHMANDU: Besides losing credibility at home and abroad for its repeated failures to hold the constituent assembly election, the Girija Prasad Koirala government has also lost his impoverished country as well as neighbour India billions with Friday’s decision to put off the November election once more.

Though the full extent of the loss was not known immediately, a private Nepali television channel estimates that the government wasted NRS 70 crore alone on printing election material, like ballot papers, the code of conduct and posters. Even if a fresh election date is announced Thursday, the piles of ballot paper would become useless junk if the government concedes the Maoist demand and switches over to a fully proportional representation system instead of the mixed system that had been adopted for the November 22 polls.

Generous election assistance had been pouring in from major donors, like India, US and EU. Besides assistance in the form of vehicles and voting machines, India has been flowing in its Election Commission officials for advice and recently, organised an elaborate seminar on constituent assembly.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-2440894,prtpage-1.cms







Nepal, India lose billions after election postponement

KATHMANDU: Besides losing credibility at home and abroad for its repeated failures to hold the constituent assembly election, the Girija Prasad Koirala government has also lost his impoverished country as well as neighbour India billions with Friday’s decision to put off the November election once more.

Though the full extent of the loss was not known immediately, a private Nepali television channel estimates that the government wasted NRS 70 crore alone on printing election material, like ballot papers, the code of conduct and posters. Even if a fresh election date is announced Thursday, the piles of ballot paper would become useless junk if the government concedes the Maoist demand and switches over to a fully proportional representation system instead of the mixed system that had been adopted for the November 22 polls.

Generous election assistance had been pouring in from major donors, like India, US and EU. Besides assistance in the form of vehicles and voting machines, India has been flowing in its Election Commission officials for advice and recently, organised an elaborate seminar on constituent assembly.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ruling coalition partners call for Nepal PM's resignation

Ruling coalition partners call for Nepal PM's resignation
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 7, 2007

KATMANDU, Nepal: Members from a major party in Nepal's ruling coalition are calling on the prime minister to step down, blaming him for failing to resolve a political crisis that led to the postponement of a crucial election.
Members of the Communist Party of Nepal United Marxist-Lenninist — the second-largest party in the six-party coalition — demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala so a new government could be formed, senior party leader Pradeep Gyawali said Sunday.
The call by members from a major partner in the government puts pressure on the prime minister, who assumed power last year after weeks of pro-democracy protests forced King Gyanendra to give up his authoritarian rule.
The ruling parties and former communist rebels agreed Friday to postpone the election for a special assembly, which will rewrite the constitution and decide Nepal's future political system. It was scheduled for Nov. 22.
A new date has not been set for the vote.
The former rebels, known as Maoists, withdrew from the government last month demanding the immediate abolition of the monarchy and procedural changes in elections. The parties have failed to reach an agreement on the Maoists' demands despite talks over the past few days.
The Maoists, who fought a decade-long armed insurgency to abolish the monarchy, signed a peace agreement in 2006 and joined the government earlier this year. More than 13,000 people were killed in the fighting.
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/07/asia/AS-POL-Nepal-Politics.php

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