In Nepal: The Maoists Join the Interim Parliament
January 15, 2007
After a decade of violent insurgency, representatives of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined parliament on January 15th under an interim constitution ratified as part of their peace accord signed with the government last November. Maoist party members and their civil society nominees now hold 83 of the interim legislature’s 330 seats. This compares with 85 seats held by the ruling Nepal Congress party, 83 seats by the United Marxist Leninists (CPN/UML), 48 seats by the Nepal Congress (Democratic), and the balance divided among several smaller parties. The interim house is intended to stand until elections — tentatively scheduled for June 2007 — to select members for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.
Reaction among the Nepali public to the new parliament is a mixture of hope and concern. While the negotiated entry of the Maoists into mainstream politics is widely viewed as a necessary step towards peace, the Maoists’ intentions remain unclear. In public pronouncements during recent months, Maoist leaders have stepped away from communist ideology and proclaimed their commitment to a democratic republic and open markets. They also have said they will cooperate with neighboring India rather than pursue a policy of radical Nepali nationalism.
This professed pragmatism resonates with many Nepalis. But, others believe it is simply a ploy until the Maoists attain power. A coalition among the Maoists and other left-leaning parties in the interim house could wield substantial influence.
The United States has said that its prohibitions under anti-terrorism laws on assistance to the Maoists, even if in government, will remain in place until the Maoists demonstrate through their actions that they have renounced violence, intimidation, and extortion. This week, United Nations (UN) monitors arrived in Nepal and are beginning to register Maoist combatants and their arms. Arms management is just one of the significant challenges to overcome before constituent assembly elections can take place.
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