UML optimistic on longevity of current ruling coalitionMaoist leader Pokharel says Congress’ support for government has changed the situation.
As top leaders from the two major ruling coalition partners—the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre)—seemed to be harbouring suspicion at each other, some leaders from the parties, however, have said that the relations between the two sides haven’t worsened as perceived in the public.
Leaders of the CPN-UML, the largest partner in the ruling coalition, smelt a rat mainly after the Nepali Congress, which was supposed to be in the main opposition, gave a vote of trust to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on January 10 even as he had quit the Congress-led alliance and joined hands with the UML to become prime minister.
On top of that, the statement made by the prime minister while talking to a group of editors on Saturday has further added mistrust among the coalition partners. He told journalists that he would also consult the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament, in connection with the elections of the President and Speaker. As part of the power-sharing deal, the UML and the Maoist Centre had allocated the post of President to the former, and agreed to lead the government and the House of Representatives (Speaker) by turns.
The Congress, which had earlier refused to cede prime ministership to Dahal, later came forward to give him a trust vote after he became prime minister with UML’s backing. Ahead of Dahal’s floor test in Parliament, UML chair KP Sharma Oli had said in a sarcastic tone that “if Congress is trying to fish in murky waters, it wouldn’t succeed to catch any.”
Dahal, who was appointed prime minister on December 25, had earlier announced that he would expand his Cabinet immediately after he gets a vote of trust in Parliament. But even almost a week later, he hasn’t succeeded in picking new ministers. He has also not been able to allocate ministries to the four ministers without portfolios appointed on December 26.
Many party insiders thought that the mistrust between the two party chiefs—Dahal and Oli—had caused the delay.
Some senior Congress leaders including Ram Chandra Poudel and Shekhar Koirala have publicly said that they voted for Dahal expecting the Maoist party’s support in forthcoming elections for key posts including President, Vice President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
Dahal, meanwhile, has called an all-party meeting for Tuesday to discuss a potential power-sharing among the parties who have given the vote of confidence.
Some UML leaders, however, appear confident that Dahal will abide by the understanding reached with the UML. Prithvi Subba Gurung, UML deputy general secretary, said that the party is optimistic about the relations between the present coalition partners, including the Maoist Centre. “Nothing so serious has happened to suspect the intention of our coalition partners,” Gurung told the Post. “The seven-party alliance has already decided on sharing vital posts and we hope the agreement gets materialised.”
It would also cost Prime Minister Dahal his credibility if he betrayed the present coalition, Gurung stressed. “Therefore, I see a slim chance of him deviating from the present alliance and joining hands with the Congress.”
Though Gurung said that there has been an agreement among the ruling partners on sharing vital posts, Prime Minister Dahal on Saturday asserted that he has not reached any agreement as such with any party. While talking to journalists on Saturday, the prime minister claimed that “we have not reached any agreement with any party in connection with sharing vital positions like President and Speaker.”
The statement by Dahal has raised suspicions, experts say.
“The prime minister’s statement has created some suspicion,” left-leaning political analyst Jhalak Subedi told the Post. “While forming the government, the UML and the Maoist Center were said to have agreed that the UML will appoint the President and Speaker, but after the Congress also gave the vote of confidence to Prime Minister Dahal, suspicions have arisen that the relationship between the UML leadership and Prime Minister Dahal may not be cordial.”
Prime Minister Dahal also claimed that the country entered a new phase after the Congress and other parties gave him a vote of trust. Dahal was appointed prime minister on December 25 with the support of the UML, the Rastriya Swatantra Party, the Rastriya Prajantra Party, the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Janamat Party, the Nagarik Unmukti Party and three independent lawmakers. But on January 10 all lawmakers, except for two, present in the House voted for Dahal.
Deputy General Secretary of the Maoist Centre Girirajmani Pokharel said politics took a new turn since Prime Minister Dahal won the confidence of 99 percent of lawmakers in Parliament. “We are in a position to accommodate other parties who gave a vote of trust to the prime minister,” he said. “It, however, does not mean that the party will break the current coalition.”
UML standing committee member Rajan Bhattarai also claims there is no point doubting the continuation of the alliance. “The Congress, which had earlier termed the present coalition as illegitimate, has now supported the government,” Bhattarai told the Post. “This is our political win.”
He, however, said it was surprising when Congress leaders are claiming President and Speaker positions. “It is interesting when a party which claims itself as the main opposition in Parliament is at the same time staking claim to major government positions as well,” said Bhattarai.
Bishnu Rijal, deputy chief of the publicity department of the UML, takes the prime minister's claim as a normal decorum given his position. “As a person who is in the position of prime minister definitely would not disclose the power-sharing agreement, therefore we understand his compulsions,” Rijal told the Post. “We now do not doubt the continuation of the alliance and the all-party meeting called by the prime minister was as per the discussion of the coalition partners.”