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Kathmandu, January 21
Exactly one year from today, the term of the current Legislature-Parliament will come to an end as per the new Constitution of Nepal. This means, new parliament or the House of Representatives will have to be elected by then. Failure to do so will not only invite a constitutional crisis but also raise figures at the leaders and their political parties’ seriousness over implementing the new constitution that was promulgated with great amount of energy, resources, time and people’s long-held aspirations put together through two constituent assemblies.
However, given the current state of political affairs in the country, holding elections and not one but three—local, provincial and federal—seems to be very unlikely. The government is now seen scrambling to get the election-related laws passed from the parliament that are inevitable to hold the three tier elections by January 21, 2018. The government it seems is more focused on getting the constitution amendment bill tabled before the parliament passed, with two-thirds majority required for the same. Induction of two ministers from two fringe parties and ongoing efforts to entice the now united Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic to join the government are testimony to the same.
The road ahead however is very challenging and the government it seems is in a catch-22 situation. Two-thirds majority for the constitution amendment bill is very challenging without the support of the main-opposition CPN-UML while the major stakeholders to the amendment—the Madhesh-centric political parties have warned of boycotting or even disrupting any election held without amending the new constitution. Hence, either way, the government is likely to land up in a soup of trouble.
To make matters even worse, the United Democratic Madhesi Front—an alliance of political parties based in the Madhesh or the plains have rejected the constitutional amendment bill in its current form. They have demanded revision to it before being tabled for vote in the house. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party too is seeking revisions to the amendment bill. Meanwhile, the proposal to chart out a new demarcation for some federal units has already drawn widespread protests in the affected districts. Furthermore, the report of the local level restructuring commission too has invited protest, and even violent ones, at certain locations including Nuwakot and Khotang.
However, elections are inevitable both for implementation of the new constitution and to ensure people’s right to elect their representatives in a new federal structure. Local elections have not been held since 1997, thus depriving people their right to vote and also denying opportunities for leadership growth from the grassroots level. Hence, the middle way out for the moment it seems to immediately announce the date for the elections. And it could start with the local tier elections based on the new structure.
For that to happen, the government must first ensure that the election-related laws are passed by the parliament within this month, to meet the requirement of preparations by the Election Commission. And as suggested by some former Chief Election Commissioners, the election of the provincial and federal level could be held simultaneously to meet the deadline set by the constitution.
And the announcement of the date of elections should be followed by efforts on part of the government to take all sides into confidence, especially the dissenting forces who have called for amendment of the constitution first. Every stakeholder including the main opposition and the Madhesh-centric political parties should also fulfil their duty of first ensuring that the new constitution is implemented and then have their demands addressed including justified amendment to the constitution.
With negligible progress as far as the implementation of the new constitution is concerned since its promulgation in September 2015, a sense of disenchantment has already developed among the people with growing mistrust over the political leaders and their parties. Like the post 1990-constitution, the people have had huge expectations from the new constitution and looking forward to some tangible changes in their socio-economic condition.
And when popular expectations are ignored, people have taken to the streets to wage a series of popular movements in the country. The popular movements so far may it be in 1951, 1990 or 2006 in Nepal have all been against the autocratic rulers, including the monarchy. But any further popular uprising in republic Nepal will definitely be against political leaders and their parties that stand as an obstacle to the people’s socio-economic well-being. Hence, the leaders must understand the reality of the present and the likelihood of the future and stop playing petty party politics over the new statute and development projects and move ahead with the desperately needed socio-economic development of the nation. And political stability is the key to development and that should start by holding periodic elections in every four years as envisaged by the constitution. RSS