Parties likely to seal deal today

KATHMANDU, May 15: Under pressure from the fast approaching May 27 deadline, the major political parties have finally settled the system of governance and are close to forging consensus on the issue of federalism. Sources told Republica that the parties are close to consensus on federalizing the country into either seven or 11 provinces.[break] “The Constituent Assembly has resolved all issues except five in the past four years. We have already almost resolved the issues related to judiciary, citizenship and electoral system. We are close to a deal on two issues—state restructuring and system of governance. We all are hopeful that we will be signing an agreement by Tuesday,” General Secretary of the Nepali Congress Krishna Prasad Sitaula told Republica on Monday. According to a political leader involved in the negotiations, the parties are likely to finalize the names and territories of each province if they reach consensus on federalizing Nepal into eight provinces. But the parties are likely not to have the names of the provinces mentioned in the constitution, in case they opt for an 11-province model. In that case, the parties are going to authorize either an extended parliament (after dissolution of the CA) or the provincial assemblies to choose the names of the provinces. The United Democratic Madhesi Front is likely to support this model with reservations, according to another political leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Leader of the Front Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar also said, “First we will ask the three parties to agree on the federal model. Then we will register our reservations. But we will not be an obstacle in promulgating the constitution by May 27.” Recent negotiation on constitution making had failed to yield result after the parties differed over naming the provinces. While the Maoist parties remained adamant on naming the provinces on the basis of single ethnic identity, the NC and CPN UML opposed that idea and argued that province names should be identity-neutral or should reflect multiple identities. But he parties inched closer to consensus on Monday after the Maoists showed flexibility over authorizing either the extended parliament or the provincial parliament or the provincial assemblies to name the provinces. According to Maoist Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the parties on Monday agreed to a mixed model of of governance, with executive powers shared between a directly-elected president and a parliament-elected prime minister, and with the supremacy of parliament. “However, we are yet to finalize the power sharing between president and prime minster. We will finalize the power sharing issue on Tuesday,” said Shrestha emerging form a meeting of top leader of the major three parties and United Democratic Madhesi Front, held at the Maoist chairman’s residence at Lazimpat. Leaders indicated that there were still differences that there were still differences over whether the president or the prime minister should have more executive powers. Emerging from the meeting, CPN UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanl said, “The prime minster will be the main executive.” But Shrestha said to journalists after the meeting, “That is not true.” Gachachhadar also spoke in similar vein. “The head of state will naturally enjoy more executive powers than the prime minister.” Earlier, the Maoist party had been batting for a directly-elected executive president such as in the USA, while the NC was for a Westminster model with the prime minister as executive head and the president as ceremonial head of state. Similarly, the CPN UML was batting for a directly-elected prime minister with a ceremonial president as head of state.