Has Unification Process Hit A Snag?
The much-talked about and much-awaited unification between the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre appeared to have hit a snag, despite both parties burning midnight oil for achieving the unification. These parties, especially the UML, have reportedly been working hard for unification before the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli embarks on his three-day state visit to India, from April 6 to 8. PM Oli had desired to visit India with a message that his government is the strongest in decades enjoying almost two-thirds majority in the parliament.
Through the unification, the PM probably wanted to send a strong message to India, which had imposed a blockade against Nepal in 2015 during his first stint as Premier, leading to a sharp dip in Nepal-India relations. The unification could have sent a message that this government should not be taken lightly by India, which, analysts say, is currently engaged in improving its bruised relations with Nepal. However, the recent reports do suggest the unification is unlikely to take place before the PM’s India visit, much to the chagrin of the UML leaders and PM himself. As the two ruling parties are engaged in sorting out the quandaries over the equal sharing of positions, the PM himself said that the unification would happen at a right time and that time could come after his India visit.
At the heart of new hurdles for unification lies the Maoist Centre chair Prachanda’s recent statement in which he demanded that the unification of the two communist parties must take place on the basis of equality. Though Prachanda did not make a formal request to the coalition partner, the UML, for such a sharing, his statement, made at a programme of his party’s student wings, has nonetheless sent ripples in the UML circle, which has wanted to unify the parties on the basis ratio according to the outcome of three-tier election results and the size and shape of the two communist parties.
Earlier, while forging unity to contest the elections, both of them had shared the electoral seats on the basis of 60:40 ratio. But the UML won about 70 per cent of seats and the Maoist won 30 per cent seats in the elections, which might have induced the UML leaders to speak about the sharing of positions on the basis, at least, of 60:40, if not the election winning ratio of 70:30.
Other hurdles have also caused the “delay” in the unification. The differences of the inclusion of word, the “People’s War” in the preamble of the statute of the future unified party and choice of party symbols - whether it will be ‘Sun’ of UML or ‘hammer and sickle’ of the Maoist Centre, have also consumed much of the time of the taskforces assigned for the task to prepare all ground works of the unification.
Political analysts who have been watching the unification bid closely say that the sudden announcement of Prachanda has its bearing on different aspects and prospects once the parties are unified. The Maoist chairman lately has started ‘feeling’ he and his party leaders might have to play second fiddle to the UML leaders, from local to central level organisations, if they had accepted the present mechanism of unification which clearly gives ‘upper hand’ to the UML in the unified party. Both parties have agreed to go along with the policy of having two chairmen in the party ‘having equal authority’ till the general convention of the unified party is held to elect new office-bearers. But Prachanda and his party men are not sure about Prachanda winning the top position if the parties are unified on the basis of above mentioned ratio where the UML members would ‘dominate’ numerically over the Maoist ones and thus would enjoy an edge over their Maoist peers.
According to reports, both parties have agreed to form a 299-member central committee, a 99-member politburo and a 33-member standing committee. It is said that the UML proposed to included 200 of its representatives and 99 of the Maoist Centre in the central committee, which must have raised the heckles of the Maoist Centre leaders.
The reports are that the senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was said to be leading a group within the UML, is now said to be coming closer with the UML chair and Prime Minister Oli. The growing ‘good relation’ between the two senior UML leaders has made Prachanda suspicious about his future position in the unified party. Likewise, the government’s recent announcement that it would not provide amnesty to the perpetrators of extreme form of violence and violation of human rights may have made the Maoist suspicious whether the PM and his party UML would work actively in resolving all the Truth and Reconciliation Committee related problems.
All these latest incidents might have coerced Prachanda to seek an equal sharing of the positions in all the organisations of the unified party when he stated that the unification was possible only through a 50/50 sharing. Many of his comrades have not yet echoed the views of Maoist Centre Chair in the public, out of fear that they could be termed as anti-unification elements, but many of them do harbour the chairman’s view, fear and suspicion. Many senior Maoist Centre leaders are heard saying that the unification must take place on the basis of principle of equality, though they stopped short of saying that it should be on 50/50 sharing of all positions in the party organisations. They are of the view that the position of both parties should be regarded equal and leaders in all organisations of the unified party should be treated equality.
Contrary to Maoist leader view, few UML leaders believe that the shape, size and position of the parties in all parliaments and other institutions should matter while unifying the parties. In other words, the UML leaders support the unification on the basis of 60:40 ratio. According to UML leader Bedu Ram Bhusal, a member of the unification taskforce, the demand for unifying parties by sharing the positions on the basis of 50:50 ratio is not fair and is aimed at impeding the unification bid. The recent announcement of the Maoist Chair has indeed given a new turn to unification bid, which has been moving smoothly till the time he spoke about the sharing of party positions on the basis of equality. Now, the leaders of the both parties are expected to engage in new rounds of discussion to address this latest issue that has hit the unification process.