The Nepal Maoists have demonstrated their political naivete by pulling out of the coalition government after the latter refused to accept their demand that the country be declared a republic and monarchy abolished before the elections in November. This has thrown the fragile peace process into jeopardy leaving the G.P. Koirala government with no room for manoeuvre. No one wants to see the monarchy, with its present unpopular incumbent, prolonged. But though he has been stripped of most of his power, King Gyanendra still enjoys some support within the army and a smattering of royalists. In a country where the monarchs were once seen as living gods, the government is right in proceeding cautiously and seeking a legitimate mandate before moving to abolish monarchy altogether. The Maoists feel that the king and his supporters will try to sabotage moves to end his reign if they wait for the elections.
The rebels, who had come to a peace deal with the government ten months ago, also appear nervous about facing the people, many of whom were unhappy with their violent ten-year-long insurgency that has claimed over 13,000 lives. They are not sure that they will win as many seats as they would like, faced with candidates from seasoned political parties. The latest move by the Maoists is politically shortsighted and amounts to going back on a promise made earlier that the decision on the monarchy would be taken in the first assembly after the polls. It signals that they cannot be trusted, something that will not be lost on New Delhi and Washington, both of whom are keenly watching developments in the mountain nation.
The peace deal was the best chance Nepal had to kickstart its economy that had gone into negative growth. Tourists had started trickling back into Kathmandu after the deal was struck and foreign aid was all set to come in. All this could now be affected by the needless posturing by the Maoists. If the Maoists feel that their attempts to arm-twist the government will win them any brownie points with the people, they are mistaken. They have caused much hardship by their frequent strikes and demonstrations. Their best bet would be to come to a compromise with the government and let big ticket decisions be taken after the polls are held. Otherwise the people of Nepal are not likely to forgive them for derailing a historic chance for peace.