In a landmark event, Nepal’s Maoist insurgents gave up violence and joined the interim government and assumed “responsibility to conduct the elections for the constituent assembly” as part of a peace deal with mainstream political parties. The interim parliament will work to prepare the ground for elections in June through a new permanent constitution that will among other things decide on the fate of the King.
As a legal measure, the existing House of Representatives dissolved itself after passing an interim constitution unanimously making way for the new body which now has 83 rebel nominees making it the second largest party in the government. Many supporters of the King had objected to the interim Constitution that pardons the guerrillas in exchange for political participation and renunciation of violence but capitulated to the momentous opportunity and peer pressure. However, cynicism continues throughout the country where impoverished citizens adopt a wait and watch attitude to seeing bitter enemies—politicians, guerrillas, collaborate to bring down another bitter enemy—the King.
As expected, the Maoists claim victory for “10 years of people’s war waged by the Nepali people” but their history has been nothing to do with the people but brutal struggle for power between a radical group of terrorists and an unkind and incompetent King who held the people hostage. If the Maoists do turn a new leaf and participate responsibly in the democracy, they will be revered world-over as the finest examples of transformation. That test will come in June with the elections when their true popularity will be tested through ballots and their behavior in a loss is what will be of interest to all Nepalis and the region. After all, the guerrilla movement started because they lost the previous election badly.
For now, the Maoists are supposed to lock up their weapons under UN supervision in return for a promise by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to name them in an interim government. With Koirala keeping his end of the promise, it remains to be seen if the Maoists will keep their end of the bargain not use violence as means to get their way.