After a decision by UDMF to boycott the local elections slated for May 14, a big question mark has arisen in the constitutional process and legitimacy of the election. Three major political parties, Nepali Congress, Maoist Center and CPN-UML, had promulgated the constitution in spite of massive opposition from UDMF. Now they are adamant to holding elections by accommodating UDMF and its allies. This is likely to invite violent confrontation among political forces and set back Nepal's move towards stability.
If the elections are held without the participation of UDMF, the political confrontation is sure intensify while ending the legitimacy of the very elections and constitution. A similar situation was seen in 2006 when the then King and political parties confronted each other on the elections agenda and reached a point of no return.
In a tweet, Home Minister and deputy prime minister Bimalendra Nidhi wrote, “The EC & security arrangement aren't sufficient; political settlements through dialogues among the parties is must for successful elections."
However, the insistence of the three parties to hold the elections at any cost is widening the gap instead of narrowing it. Although the local bodies cannot function without the election of province, nobody understands the insistence of the three parties to hold the local election even at the cost of confrontation. According to the constitution, the provincial legislature has to pass the law to make local bodies functional.
“Even if the elections are held, the local bodies cannot function until the provincial legislature passes a law prescribing the procedure for local legislature to make laws and execute local functions,” said eminent constitutional lawyer Dr. Surya Dhungel. Article 226 and 227 of the constitution of Nepal say that the local bodies need acts passed by the provinces.
If there is no use of local elections without elections for provinces and center, why the three parties are insisting on local polls is a million-rupee question.
“The elections will be held at any cost. We will hold the elections even by mobilizing the Army in Terai,” said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav. “Nothing can prevent elections.”
Given the standoff with UDMF, Nepali Congress MPs representing Madhesh have proposed to postpone the date of local elections, saying that the elections without addressing the Madhesh issue will wipe out NC from Madhesh.
As three main parties are pushing the elections agenda, UDMF has decided to foil the local level elections scheduled for May 14.
“The scheduled elections would push the country into prolonged conflict if they were held without addressing the issues of Madhesis and Janajatis,” said Upendra Yadav, Chair of Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal. “Local elections will not resolve any problem. These elections should be held by provincial governments, as they fall under their jurisdiction.”
He added: “Polls would not be democratic if the Nepali Army was mobilised in the run-up to the elections. Alliance would not accept elections, if they were held without addressing the issues raised by the agitating forces.”
April 18: Torch rallies in district headquarters and major cities
April 20: Baton and whistle rallies in major cities
April 22: Mass meetings in Dhanusha, Udayapur, Parsa and Kavre
April 23: Mass meetings in Morang, Rupandehi and Palpa
April 24: Mass meetings in Banke, Jhapa and Kathmandu
April 25: Mass meetings in Kailali, Sunsari and Kaski
April 26: Baton rallies at voting centres.
April 27: Torch rallies in district headquarters and major cities
April 28: General strikes in Madhes, Tharuhat and Limbuwan areas
April 29: Nationwide general strike
May 2: Baton rallies at voting centres
May 9: Torch rallies in districts
May 10 onwards: Indefinite general strike across the nation
Other protest programs to be decided at the district level
The Election Commission has deputed the electoral officials even as some parties are also pushing ahead with their own demands. The Naya Shakti Nepal and 67 other political parties staged a sit-in at Shanti Batika in the capital city demanding election symbols for their parties to contest the elections.
“The peaceful struggle was initiated with the purpose to establish a full-fledged democracy in the republic era and recall the beginning of the movement for multiparty democracy some 25-30 years from the same venue,” said Bhattarai.
Although RPP is putting pressure on the Election Commission to change its decision about the removal of some terms from the party's constitution, the party leaders are still in favor of the elections. RPP said that there is the need to hold the elections.
Fringe parties have been protesting in the recent days demanding constitution amendment for providing election symbols of the concerned political parties registered in the Election Commission.
Although political uncertainty is looming large, the Election Commission said that it had finalised about 21,000 polling stations throughout the country for the local level elections slated for May 14.
The EC said district election committees throughout the country had sent reports on polling stations to its central office. "There will be about 21,000 polling stations across the country,” said EC Secretary Gopinath Mainali. “The polls panel is in final stage of preparations for the civic elections.”
The EC said that about 16.2 million ballot papers were needed for 14,054,482 eligible voters.
Similarly, the commission has expedited printing of voter identity cards at EC’s central office under high security. The commission plans to supply electoral materials, including ballot papers, voter roll, voter ID, ballot boxes and other materials to all districts by April 25.
The commission said the contractor had delivered 21,000 large size ballot boxes. It said the remaining 9,000 ballot boxes would be delivered soon. The EC estimates that around 84,000 ballot boxes of various sizes would be required for the local level polls.
Although ruling parties and UDMF are still asking each other to sit for dialogue, there is no chance to make any progress given the stand taken by both the sides on local elections.
There are now more points of differences than the point of compromise as both sides are showing no interest on a compromise. “UDMF's demand on federal boundaries is non-negotiable for the time being,” said Chakrapani Khanal, the prime minister's chief political advisor. "The government is flexible to address all concerns of the agitating parties except the federal boundaries.”
UDMF leaders have only one agenda and that it is provincial boundary and amendment of the constitution. “For a meaningful dialogue, the government needs to postpone the elections,” said Rajendra Mahato. “There is no possibility to take part in the elections without amendment of constitution.”