Hard To Tell When

Despite the consensus among the political parties to hold the election, they are yet to agree on the election date

June 3, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 06 No. -23 May 31- 2013 (Jestha 17, 2070)

In their public appearance, political leaders, civil society members and government ministers express the need to hold the election in November. There is a virtual consensus on the tentative time for the polls. When it comes to deciding on the actual date, their action speaks otherwise. Nepali Congress leaders and CPN-UML leaders are adding new demands each day and the same is the case of UCPN-Maoist and Madheshi alliance.

A group of civil society leaders, close to Nepali Congress and CPN-UML , are holding separate receptions on the Republic Day, expressing their displeasure to President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav’s decision over the appointment of Khil Raj Regmi as the chairman of the Election Council of Ministers and appointment of Lok Man Singh Karki as the CIAA chief. Backed by Professionals’ Alliance for Peace and Democracy, PAPAD, the umbrella body of Nepal Professors’ Association, Nepal Bar Association, Nepal Medical Association, Nepal Teachers’ Union, Nepal Journalists’ Association and Nepal Engineers’ Association announced a boycott of the official functions to mark the Republic Day on May 29.

 “We marked the day at our level,” chairman of the Nepal Bar Association Hari Krishna Karki said in a press release, accusing foreign elements of putting the country and democracy at risk. According to Karki, their protest is also aimed at making way for free and fair elections to the Constituent Assembly and urging foreign forces not to intervene in domestic affairs.

They also sought the resignation of interim election government Chairman Khil Raj Regmi as Chief Justice and revocation of Lokman Singh Karki’s appointment as chief commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.

Similarly, Nepali Congress leader Sushil Koirala and top brass of CPN-UML, including leader Madhav Kumar Nepal also want the resignation of Khil Raj Regmi as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. UCPN-Maoist leaders and leaders of United Madheshi Front are insisting on announcing the election date for November.

In public, election is everybody’s agenda. However, no one is showing any sincere effort to create a conducive environment for this.  The new disputes between Nepali Congress leader Sushil Koirala and chairman of council of minister Khil Raj Regmi over the demand of resignation has made the situation further uncertain. Koirala even went absent from a meeting of High Level Political Mechanism on 27 May. The meeting was supposed to make decisions on the election date.

Meeting with leaders of four political parties, Chairman of Council of Ministers Regmi on 26 May threatened to take no decision. “I agreed to hold the position because of continuing insistence of all of you. You knocked at my residence, my room and put all kinds of pressure and requested me to be the chairman and hold the elections to end the political deadlock. I accepted your request hoping to bring peace and stability in the country.  Instead of creating a conducive environment to hold the elections, you are putting conditions one after another,” Regmi reportedly expressed his view in the meeting when Nepali Congress leader Sushil Koirala demanded the resignation. “Instead of supporting the government, now some of you are asking civil society members to denounce me and the government.”

Regmi is said to have had a blushed face while telling the leaders so. “I have never seen such anger expressed by gentle Regmi,” said a minister, who attended the meeting, on condition of anonymity. 

Regmi cooled down following assurance by Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, UCPN-Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and Madheshi leader Mahanta Thakur that they will recommend the date for elections anytime soon.

NC leader Shekhar Koirala told New Spotlight that his party will continue with the demand of resignation as a prerequisite for the announcement of election date. CPN-UML leader Jhalnath Khanal is also insisting on resignation. The recent agitation by civil society members close to Nepali Congress and CPN-UML indicates that pressure will be built for resignation.

 As disagreement among four political parties is growing, political factions led by CPN- Maoist and Madheshi  Janadhikar Forum continue to press for dismissal of four party high Level Political Committee and formation of all party government to hold the elections. Given the present political scenario, it is unlikely to see any breakthrough within a few days.

Regmi told party leaders to come up with a consensus on the election date and CA Election Ordinance by Wednesday or face his unilateral decision. Sadbhavana Party  leader Rajendra Mahato withdrew his fasting after the government ministers assured him that the elections date will be announced soon.

 Bureaucratic Reshuffle

After a threat by UCPN-Maoist leader Prachanda, the government withhwld its plan to transfer secretaries. Earlier, the government proposed to transfer a number of secretaries working in key ministries. Finance secretary Santa Raj Subedi, secretary at Ministry of Local Development Shanta Shrestha, Secretary of Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction Dharnidhar Khatiwada, Secretary of Education Som Lal Subedi, and Secretary at Ministry of Energy Hari Ram Koirala were in the transfer list. Although the government has postponed the transfer of secretaries, a dozen joint secretaries have already been transferred.

Meanwhile, the political process is at a standstill. Despite several rounds of talks, four political parties are yet to agree on the actual election date in November.

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