Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Maoists Have Won

Calling off their Nepal Bandh after six days I see as a grand victory for the Maoists. They have exhibited that they are capable of experimenting, that they are capable of the scientific approach. You try something. If it does not work, you ditch it and go try something else. First they tried a peaceful shutdown of the country. After they realized they were imposing unnecessary hardships for the populations, they partly lifted the strike. People could move around in the evenings. Perishable goods - fruits, vegetables, milk - could be transported. And so on. I was very impressed. Finally they have gone ahead and called off the entire Bandh itself. I am impressed.

Now that they have shown their street power, the Maoists still have the option to show their opponents their constitutional power. Unless the Maoists agree to it, the term of the constituent assembly can not be extended. If the term is not extended, this government's term is over, and there is a constitutional crisis. Although the constitution says you only need a majority in the parliament to form a government, in this case what is true is the ruling coalition needs the Maoists' approval to go on being in power. That gives the Maoists great leverage at the bargaining table.

A national unity government is still possible. It is desirable. But that has to be brought about through constitutional means. And it will only happen if the Maoists exhibit that they understand coalition culture. A coalition culture is where all partner parties together decide on who the Prime Minister will be, for example.

If Prachanda agrees to the Baburam Bhattarai name, that will give his party six months in power. And if the government performs well, the Maoists might come back with a full majority of their own in the new parliament. At that point, the Maoist central committee on its own can decide as to who their Prime Minister will be. Although I must point out I think coalition governments are here to stay in Nepal just like in India. The sooner the Maoists appreciate the give and take involved in coalition governments, the better their political prospects will look.

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