National Sections of the L5I:

The Constituent Assembly in Nepal fails to meet its deadline

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Nepal's political crisis is still on going, writes Rajesh Thapa.

The failure to agree a new constitution in Nepal means that the sessions of the Constituent Assembly will now be extended for a fourth time. For the main capitalist parties the major barrier to agreeing the constitution is the status of the armed Maoist fighters and how, or whether they can be integrated into the state in some way. Major issues of statute drafting, politics and day-to-day life remain unsolved and the tensions within and among the parties has intensified. By the end of May normal life in Kathmandu was becoming increasingly hard to remember as shops and services now regularly closed, the workings of the state slowly decline – society seems stagnant. Various organisations and groups have protested and rallied to exert pressure on the government and political parties to break the logjam but so far with no success.

The key contentious issues of the new constitution - like forms of governance, the electoral system and state restructuring or increasing federalism - have not been resolved. Although the ruling parties and the main opposition, the Nepali Congress (NC), agree that the Constituent Assembly term should be extended for ‘the last time’ to complete statute drafting and the ‘peace process’, they have disagreements regarding how long the term should be extended. The Maoists want to extend the term for a year as opposed to the reformists in the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist and the Congress who want six months extension.

Congress has opposed the CA term extension under current circumstances. It has put forward its ten point demands for the term’s extension including resignation of the Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal ‘to pave the way for a national consensus government’ and integration of combatants from the Maoist party into the regular military. It also demands the dismantling of the Maoists’ Young Communist League (YCL) and all paramilitary structures. It has said that if the Maoists fulfill Congress’s conditions the party will agree to extend the CA’s term by only six months. Moreover, the prime minister’s party, the CPN-UML, has turned on him and is trying to force him to resign. The right wing faction within the CPN-UML has allied with the Congress and wants to topple its own government. Such is life in Nepal!

Regarding the procedure for integrating the combatants into the security forces, the UCPN-Maoist as well as its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has accepted the modality proposed by the Nepali Army. All the three parties more or less agree on army's proposal regarding integration, however only a section of the Congress supports it. Also the political parties have conflicting views on the number of combatants to be integrated. Congress and some members within the UML want to limit the number to 5,000 against 6,000-8,000 as proposed by the prime minister. This still leaves around 15,000 armed Maoists who the government has no clue what to do with.

The crisis in Nepali politics is the result of a crisis in wider society – with regular power cuts and lack of investment in infrastructure leading to serious problems. Because of the crisis around £200 million of foreign aid has not been used and is sitting idle in the governments bank accounts. Life for peasants and the urban workers is getting worse – even the businessmen are complaining at the lack of leadership from the main parties. Working people have been left out on a limb as the politicians argue about the finer points of a bourgeois constitution.

The growing split in the Maoists

There has been severe dispute within the Maoists as well as the CPN-UML. The Maoist Chairman Prachanda has disagreements with the vice-chairman Dr. Bhattarai and Senior vice chairman Baidya on several issues. Baidya had registered a note of dissent when Prachanda adopted the line of peace and constitution. Now he has registered his dissent against the party’s decision to accept the Nepal Army’s modality for PLA integration. His faction wants agreement on outstanding issues of constitution prior to an agreement over the fate of the PLA. Also Bhattarai has disagreements with the chairman regarding the issue of restructuring the state and federalism. Likewise, the Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai has received death threats from a central leader of the party-affiliated Trade Union. His differences with Prachanda have also increased significantly.

The Maoists and other political parties have repeatedly failed to deliver constitution on time. They have always tried to topple the government and form their own coalition to rule. And this has always remained the main theme of the Nepalese politics. Now, the imperialist and regional powers are also trying their best to dissolve the constituent assembly. The hopes and expectations of ordinary Nepalese have been shattered by the failure of the Constituent Assembly and the political parties to fulfill their promises.

A CA that will not address burning questions like stripping the rich of their land and distributing it to the poor, that will not recognise workers’ control in the factories and nationalise all those that will not raise wages to the levels demanded by the unions - is useless to the masses. The poor workers and peasants cannot rely on such a democracy and must create their own assemblies of recallable delegates in every major town and city, in every rural district. Worse than useless but a positive danger are the political parties, including the Maoists, who will not solve the problems or workers and the rural poor. We need a new socialist party in Nepal, which fights for workers and peasants to take the power!