Nepali Maoists refuse to back new government
by Kalpit Parajuli
Former fighters cite secret agreement between newly elected Prime Minister Khanal and their leader, Prachanda. Maoists claim the Home Affairs and Defence ministries. The country’s stability is in danger after seven months without a government.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s new prime minister, Jhalanath Khanal (pictured), chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), has failed to form a new government because of Maoist opposition, this despite the fact that Maoists had voted for him as the new prime minister on 4 February. Maoists want the Defence and Home Affairs ministries based on a secret deal struck between Maoist leader Prachanda and Khanal in exchange for their support before he was elected.  Members of Khanal’s own party and opposition parties have rejected Maoist demands and fear for the country’s stability, which has been without a prime minister and a government for the past seven months.

The seven-point secret deal that led to Khanal’s election would give Maoists the two most important posts in the cabinet, Defence and Home Affairs. It would also include the integration of Maoist militias into the armed forces, something the latter have always refused, or alternatively the creation of a paramilitary force under Maoist control.

“Our party cannot implement a deal at any cost,” said former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, “because it violates the peace process and the country’s interim constitution.”

For Nepal, the existence of a Maoist army separate from the regular forces is a serious danger to the country. “The Maoist army cannot be a distinct national security force as the deal suggests.”

Maoist leader Prachanda said that if the agreement were not respected, his party would not back the government.

Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai was more cautious. He urged all parties to show responsibility and take a step towards forming a government of national consensus so that the peace process could be completed and a new constitution drafted.

After centuries of monarchy and decades of guerrilla warfare, the United Nations and the interim government set up a peace process following the establishment of the Nepali Republic (2006). Under the terms of the process, Maoist militias would be disarmed and a new constitution would be drafted.

However, the peace process has stalled and the country is in danger of economic collapse because of the inability of Maoists, the military and opposition parties to agree to terms on which 15,000 Maoist fighters would be integrated.