Over the week since the registration of the constitution amendment bill, no slogan and assurance seemed like working to end the reigning political deadlock. Given the growing political disputes, the crisis is only likely to continue for some time to come.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015 requires the government to hold three elections by mid-May 2018 for a full-fledged implementation of the constitution. That means holding the elections of local bodies, provinces and center. For all these to happen, political consensus is required among the three major political parties and other fringe groups, including Madheshis.
Even as the deadline for holding the local election is coming close, the Commission for Local Bodies Restructuring Committees have yet to submit their reports due to political disputes in terai and other districts.
As Madheshis are sticking to their demand to hold the local elections only after the provincial and central elections, the commission is unable to hold any meeting with the local political parties.
The deadlock in the parliament has already delayed the process of formulation new election laws, which are necessary to hold the election for the three tires. According to the Election Commission, six laws are immediately required to hold the elections by May or even June.
“If the government does not provide us six necessary laws within a month, it is impossible to hold the local elections by June,” said chief election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav. “We need the time for elections.”
Given the current political scenario, in which the CPN-UML is demanding the elections after withdrawing the Constitution Amendment Bill, and the Madheshi Front, which is demanding the amendment of constitution before the elections, ending the political deadlock and holding the elections seem unlikely.
As the main opposition CPN-UML is completely opposed to the constitution amendment bill and Madheshi front accepted the bill, attaching so many conditions, Nepali Congress and Maoist Center, which have tabled the constitution amendment bill, hoping to please the Madheshis, are themselves issuing contradictory statements.
With the massive protests in the affected districts in western Nepal, senior leaders of Nepali Congress and Maoist Center have declared that they will not support the amendment bill if tabled with the present conditions.
MPs of ruling parties of the region and CPN-UML are opposing parts of the amendment bill to change the borders of Province No 5. However, Madheshi front leader, who are partially welcoming the bill, are demanding rewriting the provisions on citizenship, provincial boundary, language and the structure of government.
The fourth largest Party RPP has already decided to register the amendment motion to remove secularism and make Nepal a Hindu state. RPP leaders said that they will support the amendment bill only after other parties agree on this agenda.
As the time passes, many differences have surfaced among the country’s major political parties over the issues and contents of the amendment bill, which is likely to prolong the current political crisis.
As the constitution amendment bill is in limbo, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba are considering announcing the elections schedule for the three-tiered government by January 2018.
“We will announce the elections by preparing the calendar as it is necessary to implement the constitution,” said Deuba, after holding discussions with CPN (UML) chair KP Sharma Oli.
However, CPN-UML sees the withdrawal of the constitution bill as prerequisite for the elections. “We will welcome the elections and support the government to prepare the act. However, the government needs to withdraw the bill,” said K.P. Sharma Oli.
As Nepali Congress and Maoist-Center government formed their coalition based on an accord for alternate power sharing in nine months each, Maoist leader Prachanda has to hand over power to NC leader Deuba by the end of April 2017.
For Maoist leader Prachanda, who has been harping on amendment and election, prolonging the political deadlock is in his favor. For Deuba, bringing CPN-UML in consensus table is necessary to go to power.
“There is no question to withdraw the constitution amendment bill. This is the only way out to hold the elections peacefully. The government will push the amendment bill as well as announce the elections date,” said Prime Minister Prachanda, who is considering a confrontational move to prolong the political deadlock with CPN-UML. NC leader Deuba is taking a soft stand even as he may pursue to withdraw the bill to renegotiate with Madheshis and CPN-UML.
At a time when there is a partial support from Madheshis and outright rejection from CPN-UML, withdrawal of the bill arguing for further modification will be in the best interest of NC leader Deuba and for ending the deadlock.
However, Maoist Center leader and prime minister sees revoking the amendment bill will be his political defeat. Given this political scenario, any political settlement is unlikely soon. Election or no election, amendment or no amendment, there is no sign of the political stalemate or instability ending.