FSFN, left alliance inching closer to deal

Published On: March 2, 2018 06:00 AM NPT By: Roshan Sedhai

Besides some issues over the wording of the proposed agreement on statute amendment, there is still some dispute over the number of ministries and portfolios the FSFN will get.

KATHMANDU, March 1: The possibility of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) joining the left alliance government has increased with both the parties narrowing down on their differences over constitution amendment and sharing of power.
FSFN leaders in talks with the ruling UML and the CPN (Maoist Center) said that some differences over wording of a draft agreement on constitution revision, a key condition put forth by the tarai-centric party to participate in the government, is delaying the final agreement. Similarly, the two sides are also at odds over ministerial portfolios.
FSFN, the fifth largest party in parliament, has, at least technically, accepted the constitution in its current form, but has long maintained that some provisions of the constitution have to be revised for wider acceptance.
One of the main FSFN demands includes a revision of article 274 of the constitution in such a way that would make it easier to redraw federal boundaries in the future. In addition to that, the party has also demanded that a federal commission should be set up permanently to resolve all disputes pertaining to federal boundaries. 

Instead of making any concrete pledges on the revision of boundaries, Prime Minister KP Oli and Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal have given assurance to revise the constitution if its "need is justified." Though the deal would not necessarily guarantee a revision of the constitution, both sides appear desperate to sign an agreement for obvious reasons. 

For the left alliance, a coalition pact with the FSFN allows strong chances to run the government with relative political stability. It will also help the left restore the trust of Madhesi constituents who remain skeptical of the alliance due to its stance on constitution amendment.
It could possibly pave way for the left to join the government in Province 2, the plains-only province where the left is not in power, or have greater influence in the governance of the province.
For the FSFN, a party in charge of government in Province 2, it is best chance to be part of one of the most powerful governments in Nepal's history which is expected to be in power for a full five-year term. 

Interlocutors from the two sides said a deal was likely at the next meeting, which is expected to take place Friday. Besides some issues over the wording of the proposed agreement on statute amendment, there is still some dispute over the number of ministries and portfolios the FSFN will get.
In a formal meeting held between two sides on Wednesday, the latest in a series of formal talks, FSFN Chairman Upendra Yadav had demanded three ministries alongside a deputy prime minister. Yadav also staked claim to the post of either deputy president or deputy speaker, according to leaders present at the meeting. 

Oli and Dahal have pledged only two ministries alongside two deputy ministerial posts. They have also refused to give FSFN deputy prime minister or any constitutional posts. 

Yadav also held informal talks with the left leaders on Thursday.

"We could not reach to an agreement on Wednesday due to busy schedule of Prime Minister Oli. But I think an agreement is on the horizon if left leaders stick to their words," said FSFN Co Chair Rajendra Shrestha. 

Close aides of Prime Minister Oli separately confirmed the possibility of an agreement with FSFN within the next few days. They said that there has been informal understanding between Oli, Dahal and Yadav on the nub of the proposed agreement but said that it was too early to comment on power-sharing. 

"He (Yadav) is certain to get the foreign ministry but other issues related to power-sharing are yet to be finalized. The amendment deal would act more like a face-saver for the party," said a source close to the prime minister. 

Maoist Chairman Dahal also hinted that progress was made in the talks between the government and FSFN. Talking to reporters in Nawalparasi on Thursday, Dahal said that FSFN would come on board the ruling coalition soon. 

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