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Nepal trapped in political deadlock

Rajesh Thapa, a Workers Power supporter from Nepal, outlines why the government is still unable to agree a constitution, despite four attempts

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. 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.

Although the ruling parties and the main opposition, the Nepali Congress (NC), agree that the Constituent Assembly’s term should be extended for “the last time”, 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 CPN-UML and the Congress, who want six months extension.

Congress has opposed the CA term extension under current circumstances and put forward ten demands including resignation of the Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal. It also demands the dismantling of the Maoists’ Young Communist League (YCL) and all paramilitary structures. Moreover, the prime minister’s party, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninst has turned on him and is trying to force him to resign.

The UCPN-Maoist as well as its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has accepted the modality proposed by the Nepali Army for integrating the guerrilla fighters.. Congress and some members within the UML want to limit the number to 5,000 as against the 6,000-8,000 as proposed by the prime minister. This would still leave around 15,000 armed Maoists.

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 CPN-Maoist. Chairman Prachanda has severe disagreements with the vice-chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Senior vice chairman Baidya. 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 constitutional issues 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, Bhattarai, who has increasing differences with Prachanda, has received death threats from a central leader of the party-affiliated trade union.

The Maoists and other political parties been engaged in a series of unprincipled manoeuvres to topple the existing government and form their own coalition to rule – with nothing but a reformist, pro-capitalist perspective. 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 fulfil their promises.

A Constituent Assembly 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!

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