The United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) called off the 5th phase of their agitation program following a request by the High Level Political Mechanism (HLPM) on 22 January 2010. The UCPN-M announced that it had called off the entire protest program, including the indefinite general strike set to begin on 24 January 2010. The UCPN-M has been organizing protests against the President's move to reinstate the Army Chief who resigned from the government in May 2009.

The HLPM has finalized its terms of reference (ToR), working procedures and code of conduct. The ToR state that the top leaders of other political parties will be included. This provides the Madhesh-based political parties a presence in the HLPM, and its functions will be more inclusive. The HLPM has made it clear that ending the current political deadlock is it's top priority.

At the same time, the foreign minister is demanding her presence in the HLPM saying that she has to deal with, and brief to, the international community about the political development and peace process; arguing that this will be impossible if she is not included in the mechanism. But people have different views on her demands, they are saying that she is claiming her place in the HLPM with the green green light of her father, Girija Prasad Koirala - president of Nepali Congress (NC) and one of the members of the HLPM - rather than because her ministerial position demands it.

The Constituent Assembly has amended its schedule for the 8th time without changing the constitution promulgation date of May 2010 due to delays in the submission of the two committees' reports. But, the CA has finally received reports from all the eleven thematic committees. One of the last reports submitted by the "State Restructure Committee" has already created debate as it has proposed the creation of 14 provinces - favouring the UCPN-M model of the state restructure. The Madhesh-based political parties have been demanding "one Madhesh one Pradesh" (one Madhesh one province) which covers the entire lowland of Nepal from the east to the west. At the same time, the Tharu, one the ethnic/indigenous communities, also mainly located in the lowland of Nepal have been demanding Tharuhot (Tharu province) with some areas of the lowland of Nepal. The Madhesh-based political parties and the Tharu have already showed their dissatisfaction and with thee process, and have said they can't agree with the model of a future Nepal proposed by the CA State Restructure Committee which does not consider the demands of the Madhesh-based political parties and the Tharu.

Similarly, the CA committee on "Determination of Forms of the Governance of State" has failed to reach consensus on one model of governance for Nepal, even given the amount of time the committee took to finalize the report. The committee has submitted a report proposing three different models of governance to the CA. The committee has incorporated the models of governance proposed by each of the major political parties of Nepal -- UCPN-M, NC and CPN-UML (both agree to the same model) and Terai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP). The CA members are taking their own party position in the discussion sessions over the report in the CA. This is not a good signal for the chances of consensus over the debated issues of constitution, with only 121 days left to promulgate the new constitution.

However, formation of HLPM, submission of reports of the all CA thematic committees and beginning of working by the Special Committee for the rehabilitation and reintegration of the Maoist combatants are some positive indications for writing a constitution within the given time frame.

Posted by Ambika Pokhrel, Local Correspondent for Nepal, 27 January 2010