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War on king boomerangs in Nepal

The warriors are likely to face a severe blow on Wednesday, when parliament resumes a critical debate.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON OCT 31, 2007 12:07 PM IST

The war started by Nepal's government and the Maoists on King Gyanendra is now on the verge of boomeranging with the warriors facing a severe blow on Wednesday, when parliament resumes a critical debate.

For the third consecutive day on Wednesday, legislators are arguing over the Maoist demand for immediate abolition of monarchy after the rebels refused to heed Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's request to withdraw their demand and avert a confrontation.

The debate, begun last month, shows no sign of compromise with Maoist supremo Prachanda refusing to abandon the demands and Koirala's Nepali Congress party also saying that it had been as flexible as possible.

Now the countdown has begun to a vote that instead of resolving the dilemma is likely to plunge the country into another crisis.

If the debate is wrapped up on Wednesday and a vote held, the rebels are unlikely to garner a two-third majority, which is required to push their demands through.

Though they are the second largest party in parliament with 84 MPs, so far they have the committed support of only three more legislators from two minor left parties.

To get the required 218 votes in a house of 327 MPs, they must get the support of the Nepali Congress, the largest bloc with 132 legislators.

Since at the start of the debate, the Nepali Congress asked its members to vote against the Maoist proposal, the rebels are likely to face a defeat.

However, they have indicated that they would not accept a drubbing with grace.

The rebels, who gave up their 10-year-long guerrilla war last year and joined the government in April, have warned that if defeated, they would start a new "people's revolt" that, though peaceful, would have a crippling effect.

They have also cautioned that a defeat could snap their alliance with the ruling parties, which had ended the civil war.

If the guerrillas go on the warpath, it would be impossible for Koirala to hold the critical constituent assembly election.

Earlier scheduled for 2006, Koirala first postponed it to May 2007 and then to November, angering the rebels who left the cabinet in protest and began their own campaign against the election.

As a result, this month, Koirala once again called off the November election indefinitely, losing credibility both at home and abroad and triggering a demand for his ouster.

With the international community and the UN pressurising him to hold the stalled election at the earliest, the reluctant PM has now pledged to hold the exercise in March 2008. If he fails to do so, the very existence of the government would be jeopardised.

The continuing squabbling has come as a reprieve for the king, who would have faced an acute danger of being sacked if the election had been held last year, when his unpopularity ran high after trying to rule the country with the help of the army.

However, the delay in holding the polls has stoked fresh public resentment against the parties, who have a nearly two decade-old record of corruption and incompetence, and made people begin to forget the atrocities of the royal regime.

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