Decisive Week For Local Elections
It has been over a month that there has been intense discussion among the major three parties with regard to holding the local level elections. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' had few weeks ago made it clear that the local polls would be held by mid-May. However, no date for the poll has been announced as yet owing to reservation of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF). Reports say even the trilateral meeting of the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Center and the main opposition CPN-UML held on Saturday agreed to announce the poll date within a couple of days. That means the government is likely to announce the date by Monday. The three parties also decided that there should be a joint meeting with the UDMF to persuade the disgruntled force to come on board. But, given the stance of the UDMF that the poll date should be announce only after endorsement of the constitution amendment bill, it is likely that it will at least take a week for the government to announce the date. It is also likely that if there is no consent from the UDMF, the poll date will not be announced. And if the poll date is announced within this week, no election will be held before November.
The Prime Minister and other ministers have already held discussions with the election commissioners about the possible date for the poll. The Election Commission has been saying that the poll date should be announced some four months before the polling day. But now, it has added to the pre-conditions that the number of the local level units should be fixed before it starts preparations for the local polls. But the government has yet to endorse the report of the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC) and fix the number of the local body units.
The taskforce formed to collect grievances of the political parties, particularly from the province no. 2, is yet to forward its report with suggestions on the number. The UDMF lawmakers stayed away from the discussion held by the taskforce. This means even if the taskforce submits its report, the UDMF will put forward its stance on the number of the local units. While UDMF has been pressing for increasing the number of local units in the southern belts called Terai Madhes, the Nepali Congress wants that the number be increased across the country. If they stay adamant on this, the government is unlikely to fix the number of local units, which will inevitably affect the preparations for the polls.
Although the main opposition party UML seems to have changed its earlier position that the amendment bill should not be discussed or put for vote in the parliament, the UDMF has been sticking to its stance that the bill should be endorsed before announcing the poll date. The government has been trying to convince the UDMF to accept the announcement of the poll date because the process for constitution amendment bill will be taken forward all along. But there is a question -- Is the UDMF ready to accept the result of the parliamentary vote on the bill? It is likely that the bill may as well be defeated through votes. Therefore, it is important that the UDMF is ready to accept the result and promises to take part in poll irrespective of the result.
No doubt, both the NC and the UML have been pressing for the local polls within May. They have different objectives. The NC wants the poll for the reason of power transfer. As per their agreement, the CPN-MC will have to hand over the leadership of the government to the NC after the poll. The UML wants the poll just to cash on its nationalistic image at present. For the CPN-MC, poll is a political responsibility as it is leading the government. But there will be nothing much to gain for the UDMF from the poll if the bill is not put for vote or endorsed. But since UML has been saying that it will not vote for the bill, it is unlikely that the bill will be endorsed. The UDMF leaders know this. That's why they have been focusing on having the bill passed.
It seems a bold decision from the three major parties is inevitable at the end if they really want the election. There are two options. Either the UML should change its stance or the bill be revised in such a way that it is acceptable for both the UML and the UDMF. For this to happen, these two parties should hold intensive discussion as in the past week. Both of them need to soften their stance if they want election. The UDMF should understand that only protest is no solution whereas UML should know elections should be held in a peaceful environment. What UDMF should realise is that implementation of the federal constitution is more important than the boundaries of a few provinces.
Announce the date
If the ruling as well as the opposition parties or the major parties want the election within May, there is no option but announce the date within this week. No election can be held before November if it is not held within May because of the rainy and festival seasons. The UML should agree to allow the voting on the bill in the parliament so that the UDMF feels a bit more comfortable to take part in it. The UDMF should make it public that it will take part in the polls if the bill is presented in the parliament for vote. UDMF should know, if the bill is defeated, it will be an agenda for them to go to the people during the election campaign. If there is no agreement among the major parties, or if the UDMF keeps its stance unchanged, the government should also make a bold decision to announce the poll date because if there is no agreement even by the poll date, even the date can be changed. The government can put pressure on all concerned quarters by announcing the date.