POLITICS Future Tense

As the government's bid to pass the constitution amendment bill has failed, it has paved the way for all the political parties to contest the three elections

Aug. 27, 2017, 12:46 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL.11, NO.03,August 25, 2017 (Bhadra 09,2074)

As the ruling coalition's attempt to get the much-awaited constitution amendment bill failed after 206 lawmakers cast their votes against it, the hope of the political group that has been opposing the constitution from its promulgation, has been shattered.

However, its leaders and cadres do not have other option but to take part in the elections. Although their dissension against the constitution continues, they will put their agenda now before the people.

“We cannot accept the constitution without an amendment. We will contest the elections with the agenda of going against the conspiracy of three parties against the Madheshi,” said Mahendra Raya Yadav, leader of RJPN. “We will expose them. In appropriate times, we will take our action.”

With the results, there is a jubilation among CPN-UML legislators and others, including Nepali Congress and Maoist Center. There is a big frustration in the Rashtriya Janta Party Nepal front that has completely lost the hope to correct the course through amendment.

Interestingly, the bill was tabled in voting less than twelve hours after an announcement of the date to hold the elections of provinces and national legislature on November 26. The results are likely to divide Madheshi on whether to take part in the three elections slated before November.

Although the majority of leaders of RJPN are now in favor of the elections, there is a strong voice of dissension within the party which considers the amendment drama as a hoax.

With such a rigidity on the amendment, it is impossible to amend the constitution in future. Passed by three parties, the constitution also protects the interests of these parties.

Out of 553 parliamentarians present in the voting, 347 lawmakers cast their vote in favor of the amendment bill, however, the vote lacked the two-thirds majority to endorse the bill.

As expected, main opposition UML and other fringe parties voted against the bill. The main opposition party demanded the government withdraw the amendment bill.

Despite efforts of NC leader Bimalendra Nidhi, RJPN leaders and Maoist Center leaders, CPN-UML showed no flexibility and voted against the amendment bill.

Meanwhile, the government had decided to hold the Provincial and Parliamentary elections on November 26 to implement federalism and constitution in the nation. As per the constitution, the government should hold all elections by January 21.

Nepal will hold a general election on Nov. 26, hoping to conclude a turbulent journey to democracy a decade after a civil war and the abolition of its 239-year-old monarchy. The election timing is in line with the first republican constitution, drawn up in 2015, that requires a new parliament to be in place before Jan. 21 next year.

Elections to seven state assemblies, set up under the new constitution to establish more of a federal system, would be held at the same time.

Nepal has been in turmoil since a decade-long Maoist conflict ended in 2006 and the monarchy was abolished two years later. Nepal has seen nine different governments since then.

The instability has stifled growth and unnerved investors while two devastating earthquakes in 2015 were a further blow to efforts to stabilize the economy in a landlocked country with the potential to generate significant hydroelectric power.

Political developments are closely watched by neighboring giants, China and India, which jostle for influence. Nepal is also in the middle of phased local elections – the first in two decades – with a final round set for Sept. 18.

Nepal’s present political tone is down after Modi rushed his foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, to Kathmandu with a complete capitulation on the issue of the ethnic Madhesi people, which has been a major sticking point between the two countries -- the policy shift came a tad late. India reportedly urged Nepalese dissident factors to accept compromise.

As the internal and external political environments change, RJPN leaders seem to have completely surrendered before the moves of the three-party alliance. However, the disenchantment among a large section of Madhesh, where more than 60 activists have been killed and hundreds got injured in the past, will continue. The failure of the three parties to concede to certain demands through amendment will have higher costs for Nepal in the future.

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