KATHMANDU, Feb 27: The Oli government is inching closer to bringing the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) into the ruling coalition, through a commitment to openness for a constitutional amendment in consensus. A deal with the Madhes-based party, which will give the government a two-thirds majority, is likely on Wednesday, said leaders involved in the negotiations.
The ruling alliance of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) is short of only 11 seats for a two-thirds majority in the 275-member House of Representatives. If the FSFN, which has 16 members in the lower house, joins the government, the ruling coalition will have 190 seats. A meeting between the ruling left alliance and FSFN has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.
UML leader Subash Nembang informed that the two sides have prepared a draft agreement which covers the issues of the constitutional amendment and the FSFN's joining the government. "Agreement is likely between two sides by Wednesday," said Nembang, who was involved in the negotiations on Tuesday.
FSFN had sought a written commitment of readiness to amend the constitution from the ruling coalition. In response, the ruling parties have assured it of their readiness to amend the statute on the basis of need. "We are open to discussions about constitution amendment and if there are any issues the matter could be addressed within the limitations of the statute, in consensus between the two sides," said UML Secretary Pradeep Gyawali.
During the negotiations with FSFN leaders, the left alliance turned ready to form a federal boundary commission to address the row over provincial boundaries. Madhes-based parties have been demanding such a commission and a constitutional amendment since right after the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015.
The two sides have also agreed about power sharing in the government, said sources. According to a gentleman's agreement between the left alliance and FSFN, Yadav will lead the foreign ministry in the Oli government. The party has also demanded another key ministry for itself, said an interlocutor.
FSFN General Secretary Ram Sahaya Yadav said that the party is ready to join the government if the ruling parties agree in writing to a constitutional amendment. "Commitment to constitution amendment by the ruling coalition is our baseline for joining the government. If they agree to our demand we are open to participating in the government," Yadav told Republica.
According to Rajendra Shrestha of FSFN, the left alliance was positive towards their demand. "They sought time for more discussions within their parties. Hopefully, we will strike a deal very soon, " he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Oli, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal and FSFN Chair Yadav had held meetings twice over the issue.