A day after President Ram Baran Yadav formally called upon parties to nominate a consensus Prime Minister in a week, Nepal’s Maoist party and the wider ruling alliance has criticised the move as ‘unconstitutional’.
Asserting that they would not participate in the ‘process’ initiated by the President, the Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA), which includes twenty parties present in the last Constituent Assembly (CA), however emphasised that it would still work towards ‘forging consensus’.
FDRA spokesperson, Prem Bahadur Singh, told reporters, “The President’s move is anti-constitution and anti-law. He has gone beyond the mandate, rights and duties of a ceremonial head of state. We urge him to correct his move.”
The FDRA decision came after a series of internal Maoist meetings. Party spokesperson Agni Sapkota told The Hindu, “The constitutional articles cited by the President are not applicable in the absence of parliament. He has also misinterpreted his duties as rights. Besides an official release, the President has also sent a letter to the chief secretary. All this makes us suspicious that he is seeking to exercise executive power.”
Talks to continue
Mr. Sapkota said that the party had made it clear in an all-party meeting that it would continue dialogue with other forces in the spirit of seeking an agreement, and ‘not due to the president’s directive’.
During the day, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ met Mr. Yadav, and asked him to clarify the intent behind his move. According to Mr. Sapkota, “Our leader conveyed to him doubts, and asked what he will do if there is no consensus in a week. The President said he will give parties a few more days, and would not do anything without the agreement of the political parties.”
Prime Minister’s role
As reported in The Hindu on Saturday, Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has taken a strong stance against the President’s move. A representative at the PM’s office, while calling alliance partners for the meeting in the evening is understood to have told a minister, “The PM has said he is willing to be a martyr, but will not accept an unconstitutional directive.” But there is speculation that Mr. Prachanda favours a more conciliatory approach.
A close aide of Mr. Prachanda, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “The spirit of P.M. and Mr. Prachanda is the same. But the Chairman has the responsibility of breaking the political deadlock and so cannot be rigid and belligerent.”
A close P.M. aide and Maoist legal advisor, Khimlal Devkota, said reports of differences were not true. “The party institutionally is opposed to the President’s move. The Chairman announced in the alliance meeting there would be protests, and the Newa State Committee will organise a rally in the capital tomorrow.”
Officially, the Madhesi parties too have opposed the President’s move.
Hridayesh Tripathi, a senior minister, told The Hindu, “The main challenge is to get the interim constitution back on track. This can happen only through Constituent Assembly elections. But the President’s move will not help for he has no constitutional basis to take the next step. All issues – unity government, clearing legal hurdles for elections, constitutional amendments – should have happened as a part of a package.”
Another Madhesi minister however said that the President’s move may act as a ‘catalyst’ to break the impasse. “Some intervention was needed to break the impasse. If there is a consensus candidate in the next few weeks, the President’s gamble would have succeeded. But if there is no consensus, the president too will get trapped because he has no constitutional Plan B.”