Even if our demands are fulfilled within the next few days, it is almost impossible now to hold the polls by mid-May. We may be able to hold the poll by mid-June if the parties grew serious enough to address genuine grievances of the agitating parties on time.
– Keshav Jha, general secretary,
Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party
KATHMANDU, Jan 23: Even as major political parties reiterated on Saturday that the local-level elections must be held by mid-May, there are many hurdles to overcome to hold the elections within that time.
As the clock is ticking away to hold three tiers of elections within the stipulated deadline of January, 2018, the major parties have yet to arrive at a consensus to bring amendments to the statute, and bring the agitating Madhes-based parties on board the election process. During the meeting of the three major parties--Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center)--on Saturday, the main opposition party, UML, reiterated its demand for withdrawal of the amendment bill, while the ruling parties refused to budge.
Secretary General of the Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party (RMSP) Keshav Jha said they will have objection if the government decided to announce the date of local-level poll without amending the constitution. “We are morally bound to oppose any election held without amending the constitution. What will our electorate think if we decide to take part in the election without addressing our key demands?” he asked.
While the passage of the amendment bill from parliament still remains a big challenge, the complication that has arisen after the commission formed to restructure local units submitted its report to the government is another important issue to be resolved before holding the election. Besides a few other districts, serious disputes have arisen in the delineation of local units in Province 2 as the Commission officials were forced to delineate local units from Kathmandu due to protests by Madhes-based parties.
The Madhes-based parties had decided not to allow the commission officials to visit the districts in Province 2 unless the disputes related to the delienation of federal provinces were settled.
The Madhes-based parties have been demanding six hill districts in Province 5 are taken out to ensure that the Province consisting of only plain districts stretching from Nawalparasi in the east to Bardiya in the west is formed.
While the delineation of local units has courted serious disputes, the Madhes-based parties have also expressed reservation in the constitutional provision to elect members of the upper house from the electoral college consisting of chiefs and deputy chiefs of village and municipal councils in the new federal structure. This, according to Madhes-based parties, fails to give due consideration to the size of population.
Keeping in view the demand of the Madhes-based parties, the constitution was amended for the first time in January last year -- four months after its promulgation -- to ensure population as the primary basis and geography as the secondary basis to determine election constituencies. Madhes-based parties have maintained that the current delienation of village and muncipal councils in Province 2 fails to ensure their proportionate representation in the upper house.
Jha said the agitating Madhes-based parties have proposed removing the provisions in the constitution that allow the chiefs and deputy chiefs of village and municipal councils to elect upper house members. “Even if our demands are fulfilled within the next few days, it is almost impossible now to hold the polls by mid-May. We may be able to hold the poll by mid-June if the parties grew serious enough to address genuine grievances of the agitating parties on time,” he further said, echoing the position of Election Commission (EC).
The EC Commissioners have been saying in public that there is slim chance of holding the local polls by mid-May, as the major political parties have not only failed to settle the outstanding constitutional disputes, but also failed to get the election-related bills endorsed from parliament.
However, senior leader of the ruling CPN (Maoist Center) Narayan Kaji Shrestha said there is still a possibility to hold the local polls by mid-May. “We have agreed to endorse election related bills within next three to four days. We will then announce the date of local poll as per the understanding among all parties,” he said.
Parties have also started holding discussions to remove the provisions of electing members of the Upper House through the electoral colleges that consist of chiefs and deputy chiefs of village and municipal councils as per the demand of the Madhes-based parties. “We are even ready to take the amendment bill to voting if the Madhes-based parties are ready to accept the result and take part in the election. But we must go to the election at any cost now,” he further said.