Leaders of both parties have been accusing each other of maintaining a rigid stance on the terms and conditions of the merger.
--BY SHANT SHARMA
When the two largest 'communist' parties of the country, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre), forged an electoral alliance for the provincial and parliamentary elections held last year, promising to unify the two parties 'soon', there was optimism in the air as the people took it as a solid step towards achieving political stability in the country. The people endorsed the decision by giving their valuable votes to the left alliance which was able to win nearly a two-thirds majority in the
More than six months have passed since then but the promised unification between the two parties is yet to become a reality. It's not that nothing has happened towards unification since then. After rounds of negotiation, the two parties inked a seven-point framework agreement for party unification in February this year and said the unification will take place on April 22, the birth anniversary of Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin. On April 22, the two parties organised a joint programme in the capital to mark the day but it passed without the announcement of the much-awaited unification.
On the occasion, though the top leaders of the two parties said they were very close to the promised unification and that the two parties will become one sooner than later, they appear too far from striking a final deal on unification mainly due to bickering over power sharing and rotation of the premiership. The leaders of both parties have been accusing each other of maintaining a rigid stance on the terms and conditions of the merger.
In fact, the two parties are still struggling to break the ice on the issue of the division of power post-merger. Leaders of the Maoist Center who earlier asked for a 'dignified' representation are now demanding 50 percent representation in the executive committees of the unified party. They have also demanded credible assurance from Prime Minister and UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli that the premiership will be rotated as per the ‘gentlemen's understanding’ reached with Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal before the formation of the electoral alliance between the two parties. Also, the two parties greatly differ on the election symbol of the unified party and the mention of Maoism and the 'People's War' in the party statute.
CPN-UML leaders blame the Maoist Center's 50/50 demand for having thrown the merger into disarray. "The unification bid has been thrown into disarray due to the Maoist Center's demand for 50 percent stake in the unified party," said a senior UML leader on condition of anonymity. With a strong political base at the grassroots, a large number of UML leaders are opposing the idea of giving even a 30 percent stake to the Maoist Center in the unified party, he added.
"What I can say is that UML Chairman and Prime Minister Oli and Maoist Center Chairman Dahal are already united. I don't know about the rest," said senior UML leader Pradeep Nepal, reacting to the present political course.
Although the leaders of the two parties have already drafted joint documents related to the political, organisational and ideological aspects of the new party, Maoist supreme Dahal responded strongly when the UML offered the Maoist Center a 30 percent stake in the new party. Opposing Oli's offer to integrate the two parties in a 70:30 ratio, Dahal threw in the idea of a 50 percent share in the unified party. The shift in Prime Minister Oli's and Dahal's stances has cast doubt on whether the unification will happen anytime soon.
"We still have serious differences but these differences can be addressed if leaders from both parties show sincerity and maturity. Both sides should be ready for a compromise since we have already come too far to abort the unification process," said Maoist Center Spokesperson Pampha Bhusal.
In efforts aimed at helping party unification, a taskforce headed by former Prime Minister and UML senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has prepared a 41-page document, while another taskforce led by Maoist Center leader and home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has drafted a statute containing 76 articles.
According to 'optimistic' leaders in both parties, the unification will conclude as soon as the remaining issues are settled. They say that the taskforces have already sorted out more than 80 percent of the work pertaining to various aspects of the merger.
"The two parties have already agreed on several issues including the party organisation and ideology. But they are yet to agree on the power sharing as the CPN-UML doesn't want to share the power equally," said a Maoist Center leader, adding, "We are ready to unify with the CPN-UML in a dignified manner as we too have a strong political and ideological base. As a big party, the CPN-UML leaders need to show a big heart towards the Maoist Center."
Going by the remarks of the leaders of the two parties, it can be said that though the two parties are very close to unification, they are also, seemingly, very far from it. No doubt, they have come a long way in the direction of party unification. But both Oli and Dahal still need to climb a steep cliff of differences to unify the two parties.