‘Trust deficit’ forces Maoist Center to distance itself from UML on election to new President

Published On: January 29, 2023 07:48 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, Jan 28: When the Nepali Congress (NC) denied him the post of prime minister last month, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal reached Balkot to solicit CPN-UML's support to form a new government under his leadership. The two parties also reached an informal agreement to elect UML candidates to the post of president and speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) in exchange for the party’s support to the prime minister. 

But in less than a month since the agreement was reached, the Maoist Center appears to be trying to distance itself from the UML, against the understanding reached earlier with the UML. A decision made by the Standing Committee (SC) meeting of the Maoist Center to forge national consensus for the election of a new president shows that the Maoist Center is now trying to part its ways with the UML. 

But what made the Maoist Center that 'suspicious' towards the UML to distance itself from the party that paved the way to form a new government under its leadership? Senior Maoist Center leaders say it is the ‘trust deficit’ that continues to exist between the two parties after the then Prime Minister K P Oli in 2021 dissolved parliament twice, forcing them to launch street protests for reinstatement of parliament. 

While the Maoist Center has already supported UML candidate Devraj Ghimire as new speaker of the parliament, the party is now hesitating to give UML the post of president. Senior leaders within the Maoist Center say they are hesitant to give UML the post of president as it requires two-third majority seats in parliament to oust both speaker and president-- something impossible to secure without the UML. 

Both these positions are constitutional in nature. But the precedent set by President Bidya Devi Bhandari, who exercised 'unlimited powers' to form a new government and dissolve parliament, has made Maoist Center suspicious over the role that new president could play.  

Although the UML and Maoist Center have reached an understanding to share the post of speaker for two and half years each, there is a fear within the Maoist Center that they will be rendered 'powerless' if the post of president is also given to the UML. 

A section of Maoist Center leaders believe that there is still a threat to dissolve the parliament again by the UML if both the prime minister and president belong to the UML. There has been an agreement to give the post of prime minister to the UML after two and a half years. "There is no guarantee that the UML would not repeat the parliament dissolution if both the posts of prime minister and president are held by the UML. We are serious about it," said a senior Maoist Center leader, recalling the incident in which then UML Prime Minister Oli dissolved the parliament twice. 

There is an understanding with the Maoist Center that UML already has its 'men' in various constitutional bodies including the Election Commission (EC), the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and Supreme Court. "The excessive concentration of power with one party is not good for the health of democracy," the leader argued further. 

Addressing the Standing Committee (SC) meeting of the party, Maoist Center Chairman Dahal clarified that there had not been any concrete agreement to give the post of president to UML, although there was an informal agreement to give UML the post of HoR Speaker in lieu with the support of the UML to the post of prime minister. He argued that it is in the larger interest of the party to forge national consensus on the candidate of president to avoid concentration of all major powers within a single party.

Most SC members of the Maoist Center had stood in favor of national consensus on the new candidate for president. Maoist Center leaders argue that it is equally important to bring Nepali Congress (NC) onboard also to conclude the remaining tasks of the peace process as NC is one of the parties to the Maoist conflict. There are chances that the new president could have a candidate acceptable to all parties. 

Sources said NC has also offered Maoist Center Chairman and Prime Minister Dahal to extend support for a full five year term of the government if the party helped to elect their presidential candidate. A section of Maoist Center leaders believe that the new proposal of NC has also made Maoist Center rethink about their decision to give UML the post of president. 




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