Unification And Stability
CPN-UML Chairman K P Sharma Oli and the CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, have given a huge boost to their efforts at unifying the CPN-UML and the CPN-MC by signing an agreement on Monday called the Seven Preliminary Bases of Unification. The two sides at last resolved the most vexed issue of the distribution of power and position thus paving the way for the unification. The points of the agreement are: The unified party to be named The Communist Party of Nepal; Oli and Dahal to co-chair the party and take turns at premiership; the posts of President and Deputy Speaker to go to the UML and those of Vice President and Speaker to the MC; the ratio of distribution of ministerial berths determined, yet not disclosed; the sizes of standing committee, politburo, and central committee to be ‘small’; the general convention of the unified party to resolve the issue of the ideological thrust of the unified party; but till then Marxism-Leninism to remain the unified party’s ideology (as under the CPN-UML).
The lack of agreement on power-sharing had been stalling the progress of the talks for two months since the holding of the federal elections, leading Dahal to issue threats at times. As the formation of the new government approached, the unification talks had intensified since last week. The Maoists had stuck to the position that they would not join the Oli-led government, which took office last Thursday with their backing. The UML and the MC had announced on October 3 that they were going to contest the parliamentary and provincial elections as an alliance and were to become one party after the elections. Fighting together, they have almost garnered two-thirds majority, only 10 seats short, in the federal parliament and captured six of the seven provinces.
The leaders of the two parties had been making out that the final breakthrough had been elusive because of the stalemate over some theoretical and ideological issues; for example, over whether the UML’s ‘People’s Multiparty Democracy’ (PMD) should be included in the unified party’s statute as a directive principle and also over the MC’s insistence that if PMD is to be embraced in some way, its Maoism and ‘People’s Democracy in the Twenty-First Century’ should be given a similar treatment as well. While such ideological differences had been cited as the main stumbling blocks, they were a gloss on the intense haggling over power and position that had been going on.
A look at the contents of the Seven Preliminary Bases of Unification as well as at the unwritten understanding on power-sharing is enough to remove any doubt. The ideological ‘differences’ can be easily referred to the general convention but the loaves and fishes of office must be determined here and now. In fact, after becoming one party, they should bury all the differences and the question of who becomes the leader of the party or the prime minister should be left to the outcome of the general convention as well.
If the statements and remarks of the political leaders of both parties were anything to go by, their top priority was a satisfactory deal, which the Maoists called a package deal. Other issues could be dealt with later, or even at the general convention of the unified party, if a power-sharing agreement could be reached, including the adjustment of first- and second-tier leaders of both parties in the unified party. Until such an adjustment, those leaders who saw their future standing in the unified party uncertain were not enthusiastic about the union.
As for power-sharing between the two parties, the difficulty had been increased mainly by the expectations and demands of the MC leaders. However, an understanding had been reached between the two top leaders of the two communist parties on the assumption of premiership and party chairmanship by turns. They had also created a Party Unification Coordination Committee (PUCC) to reach a consensus. Since last week, Oli and Prachanda had held several rounds of unification talks, including one this past Sunday, and one through PUCC last Wednesday, but without a breakthrough. However, they pulled it off on Monday.
Indeed, Oli and Dahal had been telling the people not to doubt the fruition of the unification efforts. Dahal had even said that the future of both the leaders would be doomed if the unification did not materialize. But PMD or Maoism, that is the face-saving slogan brought forward to justify the plunge into parliamentary politics, which the fire-brand communists had denigrated as the cesspool of corruption --the UML before the 1990 movement for the restoration and the Maoists before the 12-Point Agreement signed between the major political parties and arranged by New Delhi twelve years ago. For the Maoists, the climb-down from their high revolutionary pedestal is too steep to justify their 180 U-turn in political course, all the more so in view of the wanton death, destruction and mayhem they had unleashed for a decade and the deep wounds they inflicted on the national psyche.
Look at the Maoists’ stance of either a package deal or no-participation in the Oli government. What was the rationale behind not joining the Oli government? Couldn’t there be a coalition government between the MC and the UML until they became one party? This was another way of trying to force Oli and his party to cede much more to them than their political base and their seats in the legislatures of the three tiers of government would warrant.
The Maoists had insisted on an almost equal sharing of power despite the great mismatch between the popular bases of the two parties in favour of the UML. Finally, the Maoists have come out of the deal in a more advantageous position than its relative popular base would justify.
All said and done, however, in the present political situation of a hung parliament so characteristic of proportional representation, the union of the two biggest leftist parties can be expected to contribute to stability of government, the lack of which has been the cause of many problems in the country for a number of years. This coming together of like-minded parties should not stop just at this. It is hoped that the union shaping up now will not come off easily; in the past the single communist party had broken up over a half century ago, starting a process of their further split-ups, even over non-issues.