Bhattarai: Revolt impossible, forge consensus
Posted by Winston on April 25, 2011
As Nepal’s Maoists argue sharply over whether a New Democratic revolution is possible, advocates of both sides of the debate are going to the media. This interview, originally published at Myrepublica, takes place with Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai. Bhattarai is a Vice-Chairman of the party, was Finance Minister in the Maoist-led government of 2008, and was the head of the parallel revolutionary government during the People’s War. He opposes a strategy of people’s revolt, arguing the international and domestic situation makes the success of such a revolt impossible. Instead he argues the Maoists must compromise and seek consensus with the old, conservative political parties to draft a new constitution.
There are reports that your party is changing its official line to launch a revolt? Is it true?
Pushing for the conclusion of peace process and constitution drafting is the official party line. We have only said that forward-looking changes and socio-economic transformations should be ensured in the constitution. If this is prevented, people have the right to revolt. We are only using the Marxist terminology, but in the tactical and immediate sense, we have been clearly saying that we would move ahead through peace and constitution. That is the official line of the party and we are going to clarify the existing confusion about that point.
Your party chairman prepared a political document in a secluded resort on the outskirts of Kathmandu. What type of political strategy are you expecting from him?
The politburo meeting will make a critical evaluation of the current situation and the possible scenario post May 28 and determine the appropriate policy accordingly. This means there is no option but to conclude the peace process and write the constitution. We will do all that we can do on the peace and constitution front in the remaining 38 days. We should avoid any situation leading to dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA) before the completion of constitution drafting and peace process. Otherwise, there will be constitutional vacuum, and a real risk of losing the democratic gains made so far. That´s why our discussion and debates (at the politburo meeting) would focus on taking the peace process and constitution drafting as far as possible, and taking initiative for national consensus and consensus-based government.
One of the options to defer a constitutional vacuum is to extend the CA term. Are you also in favor of promulgating a ´brief constitution´ as another option?
It is not that we cannot mull that option. But I think it is also necessary to follow the obvious constitution drafting procedures; constitution-drafting by a CA is different from the process of a commission. The remaining 38 days would not be sufficient to collect public opinion, discuss them in the CA, and follow other necessary procedures. So we should first prepare the preliminary draft of the constitution, garner consensus on standard norms and modality for PLA integration, and then extend the CA term. Without fulfilling these basic requirements the CA term extension is impossible. Similarly people are also talking about holding fresh elections by dissolving the CA, but that is also impossible because there is no such provision in the interim constitution. The CA election is different from the periodic parliamentary elections.
But the problem is that who would lead a consensus government? Has not that always been problematic?
Mistakes were committed during the past three years of the peace process. We should learn from the past, though we are at the last stage. We abandoned the provision of consensus-based politics and that did not help to take the peace process ahead. We should correct these mistakes. Better late than never.
Then who will lead the consensus government?
It is a matter for consensus. There would not be consensus if everyone claims the post of prime minister. First there should be an agreement in principle that the country needs a consensus government. Then we should do whatever is appropriate, pragmatic and acceptable to all.
All we are saying is that there should be peace and constitution. There is no option to peace and constitution. The scheduled politburo meeting would further clarify this point.