KATHMANDU, Jan 11: The UML and CPN (Maoist Center) have decided to begin formal negotiations to reach a deal on power-sharing for provincial governments and other constitutional positions.
A meeting between UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal held at the former's residence on Wednesday ended with an understanding to pick chief ministers for six provinces and select candidates for the upper house based on consensus.
A joint taskforce comprised of leaders from both the parties has been directed to submit a detailed report on power-sharing based on the consensus reached between the two parties.
Oli and Dahal have also agreed to sort out differences over ideological and organizational issues by forming two committees.
Wednesday's meeting has been described as a breakthrough by the leaders from both the sides though the two leaders are still at odds over who will head the unified party. Oli has refused to share leadership although he has expressed readiness to rotate premiership with Dahal.
"The timeframe is not clear but Oli has agreed to hand over the government to our chairman. But there hasn't been any agreement on party leadership," said Mani Thapa, a Maoist Center leader.
UML leader Shanker Pokharel said that the committee will now begin its work in line with the instruction received from the two chairmen. He added that the remaining issues of government formation and leadership would be resolved once Oli returns from Bangkok. Oli left for Bangkok for medical checkup after holding a meeting with Dahal on Wednesday.
Though the exact model of power-sharing remains unclear, cross-party leaders said that there would be 60/40 division in leadership, party organization and other key positions.
"Our election manifesto had agreed on 60:40 division in seats during the elections. It would be prudent to finalize the issues related to party leadership, organization and power-sharing on a similar basis," UML leader Bhim Rawal said on Tuesday. Leaders are hoping to sort out ideological and political issues based on the joint election manifesto.
Maoist Center Chairman Dahal has, in principle, agreed to the proposal on 60/40 division.
Leaders said that the 60:40 percent division in organization will make it much easier to find a settlement on organization. But they pointed at a possible challenge in resolving the number of office bearers and other key positions due to a large number of aspirants.
Both parties will have to select a handful of leaders from among multiple candidates for key positions. Powerful leaders from both the parties have been pressing their chairmen to secure them appropriate positions in the unified party.
Several Maoist leaders including Ram Bahadur Thapa and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Janardan Sharma, Matrika Yadav and Barsha Man Pun are lobbying to secure a place in the party's central secretariat. Similarly, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam, Ishwar Pokharel, Bhim Rawal, Shankar Pokharel, Yogesh Bhattarai, Subas Nembang and Pradeep Gyawali have demanded dignified positions in the merged political entity.
Maoist spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said that there has been renewed commitment from both sides to have a deal on the planned merger before formation of a new government.
"The remaining issues pertaining to merger and power-sharing would be finalized step by step. Both the chairmen are very positive that other outstanding differences would be resolved soon," said Bhusal.