Nepal: Maoists, NC at loggerheads over governance

Kathmandu: Batting vehemently for a presidential form of government in Nepal, a senior Maoist leader has warned that the peace process would not move ahead unless the Nepali Congress agrees for a directly-elected president vested with all executive powers.

UCPN-Maoist politburo member Janardan Sharma said his party would not vacate the cantonments where the Maoist combatants are confined or hand over weapons unless the second largest party in the Constituent Assembly supports the idea.

Speaking at an interaction here, Sharma said the NC's disagreement with semi-presidential rule that would give executive power both to the President and the Prime Minster has aroused questions over the party's stance on statute drafting.

"The peace process will not move ahead until the NC comes clear with this issue," he said.

The NC, however, said the demand was ridiculous and could not be accepted.

"We cannot accept such a ridiculous demand, which goes against the seven-point deal reached among the major political parties," said Nepali Congress central member Bimalendra Nidhi.

He said the arms and the combatants of the Maoists should come under the control of the Nepal Army at the earliest.

The largest party in the Constituent Assembly, the CPN-Maoist, and the second largest grouping, the Nepali Congress, have been at loggerheads over the issue of the system of governance to be adopted by Nepal.

While the NC has proposed that all executive powers be vested with the prime minister and the president should be a ceremonial head, the Maoists are for a presidential form of government.

On November 1, the Maoists and the major opposition parties, including NC, had reached a seven-point deal which includes among other things integrating 6,500 Maoist combatants into the national army and returning the properties seized by the former rebels during the conflict.

Nidhi said the Maoists' latest threat to stall the peace process if there was no agreement on a presidential system was a matter of concern.

Meanwhile, senior leaders of major political parties are holding talks to discuss issues related to a delay in the peace process and expediting the process of drafting of the constitution.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has also admitted that the issue of system of governance has led to a deadlock in the constitution drafting process.

"This difference between the two major parties over the system of governance has led to a deadlock in the constitution writing process," Bhattarai said while speaking at his home Town Gorkha yesterday.