(Cartoon depicting PM Koirala (the old man), carrying the King like a baby on his back. Source: ekantipur.com)
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala commented to a group at his residence, “If we do not give any space to the Maoists, they will be desperate. Similarly if we do not give any space to the king, he will be frustrated.” After these “blunt” remarks were made on Sunday August 6 by Koirala, the peace talks have taken a complicated turn. At the very least, the statement has become a distraction from matters at hand and an additional reason to continue to stall.
The comment has caused a ruckus on all sides. Even a week after it was said, Koirala’s words are argued by Maoists, politicians, and newspaper articles. Maoists have accused the PM of intentionally trying to hinder the peace talks. Koirala has also been criticized of going against the “spirit” of the Jana Andolan (Civil Movement) in April, which called for a democratic republic. The Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists nominated Koirala as PM after the end of the General Strike in April to represent the people, and many feel betrayed by the statement of space for the king. On the other hand, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula defended Koirala’s statement: “What Girijababu (Koirala) has said should be construed as holding good until the election to constituent assembly is held.” Even the Prime Minister deserves to have his own opinion.
However, is his request to give “space to the king” merely showing his true colors as a monarchist or is there something more complicated behind his statements? Koirala is from a long line of Nepali politicians that has been a powerhouse in the Nepal Congress Party (NC) – the largest party in Nepal politics. He is well aware that the majority of people (according to sources at COCAP) are against having the king in any way part of the government. No good politician would go against the will of his constituents. However, he’s been quoted before stating that he supported a constitutional monarchy after the Jana Andolan. What gives?
One theory is that there is constant international pressure to maintain the monarchy, and the PM has to tow that line for the sake of foreign aid. The US Ambassador James Moriarty has repeatedly threatened that the US would cut off aid if the Maoists were part of the government, even if it is part of the democratic aspiration of the people. Additionally, European Union countries that have constitutional monarchies of their own provide a substantial amount of foreign aid to Nepal. Would it be hypocritical to support a democratic movement to end a monarchy when one exists on their own land?
This is not to feed into the conspiracy theories, but the scenario seems likely. Even if the focus isn’t to support a constitutional monarchy, the alternative of having Maoists in government may be enough to create another “red scare.” As long as donors can swing the right carrot or stick, democratic will doesn’t really matter. When a sizeable portion of your GDP comes from outside sources, what choice does a government really have?
Posted By Lori Tornoe Mizuno (Nepal)
Posted Aug 14th, 2006