Local Polls    A Political Discourse

 Narayan Upadhay


The idea of holding elections in the nation has become a latest political discourse in the nation. From noted independent political analysts, die-hard political workers, writers with heavy political leanings and to occasional writers too have now been talking about the worthiness of holding elections in the nation. In support of the prevailing discourse, the government appears to be announcing the date of the local elections. The languishing constitution would gain a much needed viability if elections of any nature are held successfully in the nation.


The government, if the recent media reports are to be believed, is all set to announce the date of the local polls, which has sent a positive vibes in political arena. Because the move to announce the poll date has come after three major parties- the Nepali Congress, Maoist (Centre) and main opposition CPN-UML-  struck an agreement on the local polls.


The government is said to be working to hold the local elections by the second week of May. The local elections are expected to set the stage for other two elections, the provincial and central elections for the parliament, a crucial part of the true and full implementation of the new constitution. The government is in talks with the Election Commission regarding the latter's preparations to hold three-tier elections by the deadline, January 2018.


The agreement among the three major parties over the local elections is an important achievement, especially at a time when the partiers are at loggerheads over the statute amendment bill and the idea of holding polls. While the main opposition and its allies are dead against the amendment bill and while they have been calling for the announcement of the poll dates, the ruling coalition parties, the Congress and Maoist, along with the various Madhes-centric parties and few ethnic parties are calling for an endorsement of the bill before they go for any election.


The ruling parties have come on the board with the main opposition, UML, whose major demands of announcing the poll date has about to be realised. Clearly, the government has softened its stance on the election front because it has agreed to declare the date for the local elections. It must have encouraged the main opposition party.


However, there is a deep sense of suspicion regarding the success of the elections in the face of displeasure expressed by the Madhesi Front that has not yet fully welcomed the agreement reached among the three parties over the polls. The Front has been asking the ruling parties to first bring the required changes in the second amendment to the bill. They have tepidly warned that they would either boycott the polls or would create disturbances if the polls will be held before the amendment bill is endorsed.


Despite the Madhesi threats, there are some sections that believe that after the agreement between the differing sides, the ruling parties and main opposition, over the polls, the Madhesi Front and its other allies would certainly feel the heat regarding accepting the agreement. They should also go for the local polls if they are willing to enhance their image among the electorate.


The main opposition actually needs to give up its strong stance on the amendment bill so that a conducive atmosphere to the elections would be created by luring the Madhesi Front into the election bandwagon. And these parties need to act fast as time is running out to hold the election within the constitutional deadline. The government, if it is to hold election in the scheduled time of the year, must enact as many as five elections related laws, which needs time to allow the Election Commission to make preparations to hold the elections across the nation.


Really, at present time, holding election across the nation is easier said than done. The government has remained undecided over other important issues regarding the local polls- whether the polls will be held in old set up of the local units or they will be held in the new local units as fixed by the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission. In the meantime the move of the LBRC to fix the number of local units at 719 has met with wider protests. Local people, parties and political leaders cutting across all parties have denounced the Commission's decision and many places of the nation have witnessed protests against the LBRC report.


The people are not convinced about the report. They have alleged that LBRC has redrawn their localities in an unacceptable way. The local political parties have been unnerved by the protests from the local people against the Commission's report. The local arms of major political parties thus have asked the government and the Commission to reconsider its decision to fix the units.


Another point to be reconsidered: the major parties have been mulling that the local elections should be contested by the candidates without under the banner of their parties. In other words, the local elections would be a"party-less" affair where contestants would fight without having the party symbols. This step has been considered to give the local elections wider appeal and allow all candidates without any leaning to a political party to contest the elections on an equal basis. But the parties are yet to take a final call on this provision.


It is very heartwarming to see that major parties are coming on a board for holding elections in the country. At a time when the parties are at loggerheads over the amendment bill which has kind of polarised the nation, the idea of holding election before is an welcome step. Local polls can be taken as a form of referendum on the amendment bill while the same would set the date for other elections. The elections will certainly provide a mandate to the parties and the people to take up the ways to settle all kinds of political disputes. Even if the parties become unsuccessful in getting the amendment bill endorsed at the parliament, they can gain success once they gain upper hand in the elections. Therefore, it is pertinent for the parties to hold elections, not only for the local units but for the provinces and the federal parliament, which will set the tone and tenor for the future political course of the nation.


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