Nepal heaved a sigh of relief at 1:25 am on Saturday when the country’s leaders temporarily buried their differences and amended the interim constitution to give a one year breather to the constituent assembly.
The extension prevented a constitutional crisis and gave lawmakers 12 more months to prepare the new constitution. But the road ahead for the Himalayan nation is tough and fraught with problems.
Formation of the next government as part of the deal reached on Friday night would be the biggest bone of contention among parties. There is also doubt on when Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal will resign.
Sources say that he will leave his post within five days. Once that happens there would be hectic lobbying over the next few weeks both within the major parties and among them to grab the prime minister’s post.
“As the biggest party, Maoists would want to head the government. But since UCPN (Maoist) chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is not acceptable to most parties, his deputy Baburam Bhattarai could get the post,” said political commentator Prashant Jha.
Nepali Congress too wants to head the next government and Ram Chandra Poudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba are the front-runners from this camp. Chairman of CPN (UML) Jhalanath Khanal is also in the reckoning.
Once the government is formed, parties would have to get busy with the task of constitution drafting and completing the peace process that started in 2006 at the end of the civil war. This too won’t be a cakewalk.
Integration of nearly 15,000 former rebels into security forces, return of property seized by Maoists and restructuring the para-military structure of the Maoist youth wing would pose problems.
“The peace process must come to an end within the next month or two if we are to have a credible democratic constitution in the truest sense,” said eminent journalist Kanakmani Dixit.
Serious differences among the major parties on federalism, restructuring of the country into states, type of government and judiciary can take several months to get addressed.
“These are big problems and if the parties don’t show willingness to address them earnestly, the constitution may not get drafted in the extended period,” said Jha adding that the country can’t afford more delay.
Political analysts say that India was “deeply involved” in what transpired on Friday night, but Nepal’s southern neighbour kept its options open.
“India didn’t want extension of the CA tenure as it would give legitimacy to the Maoists. But it was willing to go along with the general mood on extending the tenure,” Jha said.
Nepal marked its second anniversary as a republic on Saturday. Events during the next 12 months will decide what the third one will be like.