I have to admit, I am impressed. I hadn’t held high hopes for the summit talks to conclude in a positive note, let alone reach an agreement in the many contentious issues from arms management to the fate of monarchy. I also believed that talks for a temporary parliament would only provide with more hurdles making the whole process needlessly longer. I still think the intermediary parliament is a farce, but I was surprised that the parties settled even as dodgy an issue as the allocation of seats.
This is not to say that I think the intermediary parliament is any more meaningful than I thought before. In fact, it takes Orwellian double-speak at its face value and makes the allocation of parliament berths similar to the cake-carving of China by colonial powers. A parliament, at least of a democratic country, has to be chosen by the people instead of being divided between the powers that be through an amicable agreement. And as far as I can see, the parliament serves little function for now. The aspirations of the Nepalese people will have to be addressed by the constituent assembly, not by hand-picked leaders. The primary concern is holding those elections. That, a neutral government can achieve. And a neutral government can be formed by having technocrats, intellectuals, human rights activists and such form a panel that is agreed upon by the parties. If the UN can monitor arms, it sure as hell can monitor elections.
The one thing the parliament will come in handy is in drawing up the constituencies, and we can expect major problems there. Should it be mapped according to geography or population? The Maoists have drawn up their own regions, and the NC and UML differ on their priorities. It will make for some interesting debates.
The major hurdle to the success of the summit talks was arms management, and Comrade Prachanda, seemingly bewildered at the advancement of technology due to his long time absence from civilization as we know it, gleefully agreed to the use of close-circuit cameras and motion-sensitive alarms.
With that out of the way, another contentious issue was monarchy whose fate, it has been agreed, is to be decided by the constituent assembly. UML, though agreeing to it, has voiced dissatisfaction on the issue. It wants the people to decide the fate of the monarchy through a referendum. As I have noted before, I completely support the stance of UML on this issue. People have firm views on topics like this, and it would only be fair for the people of Nepal, the main factor for making the April Uprising a success, to decide for themselves. The interests of some politicians, whatever they may be, should not be allowed to muddle the aspirations of the people. No individual’s ideology – Prachanda’s straight-up republicanism or Girija’s almost patronizing benevolence towards the king – should be an obstacle to the collective will of the people.
There are other important issues still unaddressed including modifications to the citizenship laws; an estimated 4 million people may be disenfranchised without new legislation. I can only hope that the spirit of goodwill and mutual agreement continues, and good sense prevails. And who knows, after 7 years, we might just be back to becoming a functional democracy by July next year.