LOCAL POLLSFar From Solution

With the announcement of protest programs against May 14 local poll by SLMM, the election politics is heading towards violent confrontations

Feb. 25, 2017, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.10, No 13, February 24, 2017 (Falgun 11, 2073)

With the announcement of local elections by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leaders of three major political parties Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Maoist center are separately claiming as a political victory.

However, leaders of Samutka Loktantric Madheshi Morcha (SLMM) declared the announcement as betrayal to the Madheshi, Janjati and marginalized community announcing nationwide protest program.

“The announcement of the elections was a tantamount to the declaration of war against Madheshi, janjati and marginalized community. Maoist Center and Nepali Congress betrayed us not moving the constitutional amendment bill as agreed with us before announcement of polls,” thundered Mahant Thakur, leader of Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party. “We will block the elections whatever cost we have to pay. If there need to give some martyrdom, Madheshi are ready to do so.”

Tired of facing constant pressure of Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, the announcement of elections is a sigh of relief for Prime Minister Dahal as he secured his position till June.

 Nepali Congress president Deuba ,who was pressuring prime  minister Dahal to announce the date or quite as prime minister, is too in jubilant hoping to rope to power after May 14 local elections.

Dethroned in humiliation from power by Nepali Congress, Maoist Center and SLMM’s alliance, former prime minister and leader of main opposition party CPN-UML K.P. Sharma Oli considers the announcement is a political achievement and a revenge cracking six months long alliance with a solid slogan for local elections.

As the elections announced, the United Democratic Madheshi Front marched at streets in protest threatening to prevent the polls in Tarai region. Cadres of SLMM have already announced several protest programs.

Accusing the government of betraying the UDMF, Sadbhawana Vice-Chairman Ishwor Yadav said the imposed election would not bear any significance. He warned that the UDMF would not let election happen in the Tarai-Madhesh region.

As SLMM will likely to withdraw support shortly, it gives CPN-UML a chance to press the government to resign and paves the way for new coalition government before holding the local polls.

With the possible threat for his coalition, Prime Minister Dahal has already started to appease fringe parties RPP and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum Democrat to retain majority in the Legislature Parliament even after withdrawal of SLMM.

Although the date for the local polls after 12 years, it is still uncertain whether local polls will give the growing tensions. The current situation is like similar when former King Gyanendra held the local polls twelve year ago. The turned violent following boycotted jointly by then seven party alliance and Maoist.

As the violence is growing in Terai with uncertain in police forces and lowest popularity of three political parties, holding the elections is a very tough agenda given the announcement of massive protest by Madheshi, Biplab led Maoist.

A cabinet meeting held on Monday (23 February) evening at the prime minister's official residence in Baluwatar decided to hold the local level poll across the country in a single phase amid opposition from the agitating Madhes-based political parties.

Along with the announcement of the poll date, the cabinet meeting decided to release Rs 10.29 billion to the EC to make necessary preparations for the poll. The EC during its meetings with Prime Minister Dahal had earlier requested the government to release over Rs 10 billion for logistical preparations for the poll.

Prime Minister Dahal had held three separate meetings before taking a formal decision to announce the poll date in the evening. While the first cabinet meeting in the morning decided to expedite constitution amendment bill and gave additional seven days to the taskforce formed earlier to review the local unit delineation report submitted by the local level restructuring commission (LLRC), the cabinet meeting held in the evening had formally announced the date for holding the local level poll.

The government's decision to expedite the constitution amendment bill, which is currently in parliament, and to give additional seven days to the taskforce to review LLRC report was apparently aimed at appeasing the agitating Madhes-based parties.

The LLRC has proposed a total 719 local units under the federal setup. The Madhes-based parties have demanded that the number be increased proportionate to the number of population in Province 2.

The last local election with five-year mandate was held in 1997. There is a vacuum at the local level after the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was unable to hold the periodic local elections in 2002 and decided not to extend the term of the local bodies.

The agitating Madheshi parties, which are demanding amendments to the constitution before the poll have announced, Madhes-centric protests including general strikes, torch rally at major thoroughfares and market places across the Madhes districts.

 "We have termed the government's move as unfortunate and announced protest programs against it," said Manish Suman, the general secretary of the Sadbhavana Party. "We will also launch a special campaign to expose the government's move for the next 15 days," Suman said.

The Madhes-based parties, which voted to form the present government, had been demanding that the government first complete the constitution amendment process prior to announcing poll date.

With the resistant from main opposition CPN-UML led alliance not to allow debate in constitution amendment bill in Legislature Parliament and nationwide protest of SLMM, the local elections announced by coalition government lands in uncertainty indicating more violent incidents in coming days. 

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