KATHMANDU, July 19: With just four days remaining ahead of the July 22 deadline for amending the Interim Constitution and other laws to make the November 22 election possible, the government has geared up at least to prepare the legal ground for an electoral exercise that lacks political consensus.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai held formal consultations with his seniormost deputy -- Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar -- and a select-group of top bureaucrats, including Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire and officials from the prime minister´s office and the law and home ministries, on amending election-related laws to make the November 22 poll possible.
This is the first formal step taken by the government by way of necessary poll preparations since the election announcement on May 27.
"The prime minister, in his concurrent capacity as law minister, himself led Wednesday´s discussions on the laws to be amended within the deadline set by the Election Commission," said a source who participated in the meeting, on condition of anonymity, adding, "The government plans to amend the laws through ordinance."
Two weeks after the May 27 announcement that the governmet was to go for yet another election to the Constituent Assembly, the constitutional election body had set a July 22 deadline for amending the Interim Constitution, the Constituent Assembly Act, the Voters Roll Act and the Election Act.
In seeking the amendments, the EC has argued that the existing constitutional and legal provisions relate to the previous election of the Constituent Assembly and are not applicable to the proposed November 22 poll.
In setting the July 22 deadline, the EC argued that it needed 120 days from the day the constitutional and legal grounds are readied to make the necessary poll arrangements. The EC has already made it clear it would not be able to hold the election on November 22 if the Interim Constitution and the laws related to elections are not amended four months prior to the election date.
As the meeting convened by Dr Bhattarai could not complete the discussions on the laws to be amended, the prime minister is holding a series of discussions this week, said another source.
"The prime minister has directed the law secretary to hold discussions on Thursday with officials from the Election Commission regarding amendments to election-related laws," said a third source, on condition of anonymity.
The meeting, however, abstained from discussing the constitutional provisions that need to be amended, concluding that in the absence of an elected parliament changes in the Interim Constitution will be possible only through political consensus.
´The prime minister is planning to hold discussions in this regard with the political parties this week," said yet another source, also seeking anonymity.
Meanwhile, a senior minister told Republica that the government is likely to request the EC to extend the deadline by one week so as to facilitate a political consensus for amending the Interim Constitution.
"We hope the Election Commission will not mind if the government asks for one more week beyond the July 22 deadline," the minister said.