Parties ready to give chief justice till mid-December
KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, Feb 24: The taskforce formed to prepare a draft consensus among the four major political forces, including UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), has proposed holding fresh elections by mid-December.
A meeting of taskforce members held on Saturday made the proposal in view of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi, to whom the parties have agreed to hand over government leadership for holding the polls, expressing reservations over their earlier proposal to hold the polls by mid-June, citing lack of time.
"We have agreed to provide the chief justice till mid-December to hold the polls if time is his only concern. It is now up to the chief justice to take a decision," said taskforce member from the NC, Bimalendra Nidhi.
Earlier in the morning, a meeting of top leaders of the four parties had decided to ask the taskforce to finalize the draft consensus.
Nidhi said those opposing the proposal to form an election government under a sitting chief justice have raised mainly four concerns, including concern about democratic values and norms, constitutionalism, judicial independence, and separation of powers.
"To address those concerns, we have proposed giving time for both the head of the proposed interim government and the acting chief justice till mid-December to perform their respective duties independently," Nidhi further said.
The proposal of the taskforce comes also in the wake of the Election Commission (EC) saying that holding elections by Mid-June would be almost impossible if the parties caused further delay in forging consensus on the contentious issues surrounding fresh polls. The parties are yet to settle the issues of updating the voters list, reviewing constituency delineations in line with the findings of the latest census, and settling various other technical issues relating to the polls.
The taskforce meeting on Saturday revised the draft proposal, keeping in view the concerns raised by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi over the ´wording´ of the draft. "We have decided to forward the issues of contention to our top leaders for settling them," Nidhi further said.
Though the taskforce members have already reached consensus on nine out of the 12 points of the draft proposal, they are yet to reach consensus on issues surrounding citizenship certificates, voter registration, the Truth and Reconciliation and Disappearance Commissions, and rank determination for Maoist combatants choosing integration into the Nepal Army.
According to taskforce members, the Maoists have demanded the rank of colonel and settlement of the rank through ´political understanding´, but the NC and UML have maintained that the Special Committee entrusted with responsibility for supervising, integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants should settle this technical issue.
The Special Committee has proposed giving Maoist combatants the highest rank of major as per the established norms of the NA, as against the demand made by the Maoists for a highest rank of colonel through ´political understanding´.
Likewise, taskforce members are seriously at odds over the TRC ordinance already forwarded by the government to President Dr Ram Baran Yadav for his endorsement. The NC and UML have argued that blanket amnesty cannot be given to those involved in serious human rights violations during the conflict, as proposed in the controversial ordinance.
Also, the UML and other parties in the taskforce are at odds over the issue of citizenship certificates and voter registration. While the Maoists, NC and the UDMF reached an agreement to provide citizenship certificates by descent to the children of those receiving citizenship certificates by birth after the political change of 2006, UML taskforce members argued that it would not be good to link the issue of citizenship with fresh elections.
The UML and other parties are also at odds over whether to make citizenship certificates mandatory for 18-year-olds to register their names in the voters list. UML taskforce members have rejected the proposal of other political parties to accept any valid identity for registration in the voters list for the purpose of the fresh polls.