LOCAL ELECTIONS Certainly Uncertain

With the Election Commission removing the terms 'Hindu' and 'Monarchy' from RPP-Nepal’s constitution, the party has threatened to boycott the local elections

Issue Name : Vol.10,No 15, March 24,2017 (Chaitra 11,2073)

Although the leaders of three major political parties, Nepali Congress, Maoist Center and CPN-UML, are publicly saying that everything is normal on the way to holding the local elections scheduled for May 14, they are privately showing concerns about the deteriorating political scenario.

At a time when a strong political force under the banner of United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) has already been launching different kinds of protests across the country, particularly in the Terai region, mainly pushing for the constitution's amendment before holding the poll, the recent decision of Election Commission to remove the 'Constitutional Monarchy' and 'Hindu State' provisions from RPP-Nepal’s party constitution has sparked a new controversy, threatening the prospects of holding the elections.

“The RPP does not accept the decision which will forbid the party’s principal norms,” a statement read, “The RPP requests the Election Commission to rethink the decision."

Deputy prime minister and chairman of RPP Nepal Kamal Thapa said, "We will quit the government. The Election Commission is working to sabotage the elections.”

Despite its joining the incumbent government, RPP-Nepal president and deputy prime minister Thapa has declared that his party will quit the government and call for a boycott of the election if the commission declines to correct its decision.

The Election Commission deleted the "Constitutional Monarchy" and "Hindu State" phrases of the RPP’s party constitution saying that they went against the fundamentals of the Republican and Secular Constitution. “What we have decided to is in line with the constitution and law,” said Ayodhi Prasad Yadav, the Chief Election Commissioner.

As the battle is going on, half a dozen RPP-Nepal members of parliament have registered a constitution amendment bill in the parliament to remove the provision of secularism, replacing it with "Hindu State" and accepting the decision of Commission to remove "Constitutional Monarchy".

After completing their Mechi-Mahakali Conclave, CPN-UML leaders are publicly showing jubilation. However, they are not too optimistic about the present scenario in giving way to the elections all over the country as violent clashes with Madhesis greeted their campaign in Rajbiraj recently.

“This government is trying to delay the polls. Prime minister Dahal and Nepali Congress leaders are not serious about holding the elections as they know the people will vote against them,” said CPN-UML leader KP Sharma Oli, hinting at the current uncertainty.

The statement given by deputy prime minister and minister of home affairs Bimalendra Nidhi during his recent visit to New Delhi indicates that the election environment is yet to be conducive. As election date is less than two months away, the deputy prime minister requested Indian leaders, including prime minister Narendra Modi, to provide the necessary logistical support, such as 500 vehicles, a large number of ballot boxes and other logistics, showing the poor state of poll preparation.

Thirty-eight members of Legislature Parliament representing Terai Madhesh have requested Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba to take the initiative to move the constitution amendment bill forward before the elections. “It is impossible to hold the elections in the Terai without amending the constitution,” said NC MP Farmulla Mansur.

At a time when election campaign should have picked pace, prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has decided to pay a visit to Nepal’s northern neighbor China. Given all the political developments, one cannot rule out the possibility of postponement of the elections at the last minute.  

Although the government has already implemented the report of the local body restructuring committee, dismantling all the local level institutions, there are a lot of controversies featuring local disenchantment on the border and new institution nationwide.

There is so much confusion about the voters' issue and new boundaries of the local bodies. Given the situation, it is unlikely to be helpful for a free and fair nationwide election.

Election Consequences

The local elections, without participation of UDMF, will have far-reaching consequences for national unity. With the decision of UDMF to take any retaliatory measure against the election, violence is likely to result in any consequence in the Terai.

People still remember the violent agitation of the Terai, which occurred after the promulgation of the new constitution by three political parties by their sheer numerical strength in parliament. With the death of over 50 and hundreds of injuries, Nepal faced almost six months of blockade in the border.

If the elections are held by undermining the strength of the UDMF, the scenario is likely to be more violent. If the government cannot hold the elections, it will support Madheshi's cause of one Madhesh.  

There will likely be two Nepal with Madhesh having no command of center. In the name of holding the local elections at any cost, three major political parties, which have been opposing one Madhesh, seem to have supported in creating it.

With the new issue appearing in RPP-Nepal’s case, the possibility of holding the local elections as scheduled is unlikely.

Ballot Paper Print

Although the cloud of uncertainty is hanging over the sky, the Election Commission has started printing the ballot papers needed for the local level elections on May 14.

The EC has decided to print about 16 million ballot papers for the elections. The ballot papers are being printed at the Sanothimi-based Janak Education Materials Centre as per a contract, under the security of Nepal Army. The printing would take around 1.5 months to complete.

As many as 47 political parties have registered from Kathmandu district whereas only seven from Manang district. The polls would be held for the total posts of 36,639 at 744 local units including 481 rural municipalities, 246 municipalities, 13 sub-metropolitan cities and four metropolitan cities and 6,680 wards across the nation.

Be it reluctantly or sincerely, the Election Commission has already moved ahead with the election process for local bodies. However, nobody is sure that the elections will be held and they will bring the much-needed stability and political compromise.

Elections should not just be staging elections, they need to bring solutions to the problems. Given the present scenario in which the political forces are divided, holding the elections looks at the moment like it will create more rifts than compromises.

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