In his recent meeting with prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, election commissioners headed by chief elections commissioner Dr. Ayodhi Prasad Yadav demanded that the date for the remaining elections must be announced before August 17.
Despite their insistence, prime minister Deuba did not make any promise as such. However, prime minister Deuba proposed to hold the central elections and provincial elections on the same date. The commissioners replied in the negative tone.
Although the Constituency Delineation Committee has already started its work, the Legislature Parliament has been debating the bills on the election of Parliament and provincial legislatures. One cannot say for sure that the elections will be held before the deadline set by the Constitution.
“The government is ready to support the Election Commission as we have already made the necessary arrangements to hold the elections for national and provincial levels as per the constitution,” said prime minister Deuba in the meeting with the election commissioners.
However, the situation is not as easy as it looks. After the third phase of local polls, only four months would be left for preparations to hold the provincial and the parliamentary polls by 21 Jan 2018.
When polls were possible to be held in province number one, five and seven in the second phase, there was no reason to postpone the polls in province two; and there is also no guarantee that polls would be held in province number 2 even after four months of second phase polls. As the Madhesi leaders could change their stance any time regarding the polls, the uncertainty period will only prolong.
“There is no question to take part in the elections without amendment of the constitution which is our bottom-line,” said Rajendra Mahato, leader of Rastriya Janta Party Nepal. “We have repeatedly told prime minister Deuba about this.”
Main opposition party leader K.P. Sharma Oli has already made it clear that his party will oppose any move for constitutional amendment. “This is the time for elections, not amendments,” said Oli.
Analysts suspect that growing political disputes and this excessive gap between second and third phase of local polls could affect the provincial and federal parliament polls negatively.
The threat of RJP not to take part in the forthcoming polls slated for September 18 and CPN-UML’s opposition to constitution amendment may create a different situation.
The Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) Nepal, the leading agitator Madhesh party, has been demanding, for a long time, an amendment to the constitution of Nepal. Their major demands were proportionate representation, two provinces in Terai, citizenship and language, which must be incorporated in the amendment of the constitution. They are opposing and threatening to boycott the forthcoming polls of 18 Sep 2017 if their demands were not met.
However, given the pressure within the party and outside, RJP is in dual mentality whether to participate or not in local level polls of province number two, to be held on 18 Sep 2017.
To fulfill some Madhesi demands, the present ruling coalition government of Nepali Congress, supported by Communist Party of Nepal (Center), has tabled a bill for constitution amendment and the government has already decided to increase the number of local bodies in Terai. But, it became difficult to materialize as opposition Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-UML) is against it citing it as a threat to the national unity and sovereignty.
If the provincial and the parliament election were not held between 18 Sep 2017 and 21 January 2018, it means a constitution vacuum would be created automatically; or alternatively there could be amendment in the constitution to hold remaining elections beyond any date after 21 Jan 2018 by extending tenure of present parliament and its members. It means, the ruling coalition parties would get more time to conduct remaining polls and to lead the government for a longer period. Some media have already started to disseminate news, quoting various sources about high possibility of this parliament tenure extension by constitution amendment. If it happened, it would increase political transition as well as uncertainty would remain in the constitution's implementation.