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Nepal’s parliament session turning into farce

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : A critical session of Nepal’s parliament that was to have sealed King Gyanendra’s fate is turning into a farce after neither reaching an accord nor holding a vote that would have broken the nearly two-month impasse.

There is high public scepticism that the deadlock will be resolved Sunday when the debate resumes after being adjourned Friday.

Though the Friday session was expected to see the critical vote, it was put off after the special session convened seven hours late in an unprecedented show of disregard for norms.

The spirit of inertia and laissez faire that had marked the rule of the political parties from the 1990s, triggering a communist insurgency first and then a coup by King Gyanendra, has pervaded Nepal’s politics once again with the parties continuing to bicker endlessly.

Since September, a political paralysis has gripped Nepal’s fragile peace process, with the Maoists pulling out of the coalition government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and demanding the immediate abolition of King Gyanendra’s throne as well as a new election system.

The proposals have been rejected by Koirala, who on one hand fears the disapproval of the international community if he allows a nominated parliament to decide the fate of Nepal’s once hallowed two-century old monarchy, and on the other, a drubbing at the hustings if he agrees to the fully proportional representation system demanded by the rebels.

Though the Maoists have hinted they are ready to compromise if any one of the demands is met, Koirala has ruled that out too.

Maoist whip Janardan Sharma says his party is ready to accept a declaration abolishing monarchy now and have it endorsed after the election.

However, Koirala has rejected that too without being able to come up with any acceptable proposal of his own.

Sunday’s session could either end in a vote or see the continuation of endless parleys.

If a vote takes place, the Maoists are unlikely to get the two-third majority required to push their demand through as Koirala’s Nepali Congress, the biggest party in parliament, will vote against them.

Still, it will put Koirala in a spot, the reason the wily prime minister is trying to delay the exercise.

Two communist parties in the ruling alliance – the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the Jana Morcha, Nepal – have said they would support the Maoists.

The rebels also have an ally in two more fringe Left parties.

In addition, now a dissident MP and former minister in the Koirala cabinet, who quit after a feud in his party, says he would support the Maoists.

Rajendra Mahato, former commerce, supplies and industry minister from the Nepal Sadbhavana Party, that is also a partner in the ruling alliance, said Friday he would vote for the Maoists.

Though Koirala would win the vote, it would be a moral and political defeat for him with even his allies going against him.

It could snowball into a demand for his ouster at a time he is fast losing credibility both at home and abroad for repeatedly failing to hold the election.

When the debate resumes Sunday it would be a month that Koirala announced the indefinite postponement of the constituent assembly election.

While he is yet to announce a fresh date, violence and trouble has erupted again in the Terai plains, where over 300 people have died since this year.

In Bara district, where a government official was killed last week, nearly 100 more officials sent a memorandum to the home ministry Friday, saying they were resigning en masse to protest against the lack of security.

Now journalists, who last year helped Koirala come to power by challenging King Gyanendra’s regime, are turning against him.

On Sunday, journalists are staging protests nationwide at the inaction of the government that failed to free a journalist abducted by Maoists almost a month ago.

While it is feared Birendra Shah, a journalist with private television station Avenues, has been killed by the guerrillas, the government has been trying to conceal his death and at the same time, failed to take any action against the perpetrators.