Positive Step Toward Statute Implementation
In keeping with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s repeated assurances that the local level election will be held by mid-May, the government on February 20 fixed the date for the poll and announced that the local polls would be held on May 14. In the context of the argument of both the ruling as well as opposition parties that holding of all three tier of elections-local, provincial and federal/parliamentary- is a key to constitution implementation, the fixation of the local poll date is a most positive move taken by the government to implement the constitution. Moreover, the government has also been successful so far in taking the disgruntled United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) in confidence by persuading the main opposition CPN-UML to allow the constitution amendment bill go through the parliamentary process for voting. Although both the sides, the UDMF and the UML, have their differences over the local polls and the amendment bill, the way the government announced the poll date and initiated process for parliamentary vote on the amendment bill has forced them both to reconsider their rigid stances.
What is now most expected of the UDMF and UML is flexibility on their part with regard to their positions on polls and the amendment bill. If the UDMF wants the implementation of the federal republic constitution it has no option but to soften its stances instead of warning to protest against the historic polls. The local poll will be historic for two reasons: it is being held in a period of two decades and it is, from political administrative point of view, a major step toward implementation of the constitution. It is a must to take the federal structure to the grassroots level. Although the UDMF meeting held just two days after the announcement of the poll date had warned the government to either ensure endorsement of the constitution amendment bill within 15 days or face withdrawal of the UDMF support to the government, it is expected that, with the start of the deliberation on the amendment bill in the Parliament, the UDMF has been relaxed to some extent and will take some time to make similar hasty judgment and decision.
Moreover, the UDMF should express readiness to accept the result of the parliamentary voting on the bill. Nothing can be illogical to participate in a match and not to accept the result. The UDMF should come out of such illogical argument. And those foreign forces which have been encouraging ‘to include all’ in constitution implementation should make the UDMF understand the rule of the game. Or else a situation similar to the one seen during the time of constitution promulgation is likely to develop once again. This is so because changes of boundaries of some provinces or separating hills from the plains which have also been opposed by a large section of the society and some key political actors cannot ensure the rights of the people in the plains. Such an idea is divisive in itself and against co-existence. It is yet to see what more the UDMF wants to gain through the amendment proposal to the amendment bill under discussion in parliament. But, surely, if UDMF adds to demands instead of adopting flexibility, it is very likely that the ruling parties may as well be tired of them.
The other political party which seems to have been exerting pressure on the government to announce the poll date on the surface but created a whole lot of obstacles for the government to do so is the main opposition, UML. But now, in the last nearly 3 months since the government registered the constitution amendment bill on November 29, 2016, the UML has also taken some soft, flexible approaches. It was the most illogical stand of the UML to not allow the amendment bill table or discuss in the parliament. Now it has given the consent. But it has to do more if it really wants to reap the result of the ‘nationalistic public sentiment’ by means of election.
As local election has been announced, it is also the responsibility of the main opposition to create a conducive political environment for the poll. It seems UML should be ready to either increase the number of local units or to allow changes in the boundaries of Province no. 4 and 5. There are other issues such as related to language, citizenship, but these will not create so much of the problem. But for all this, UML should hold dialogues with the UDMF to find a common ground, if possible, something like the one the second rank leaders did some weeks ago. It is hoped that the UML knows well no election can be held if political differences remain intense, divisive.
Easing EC’s task
One critical role of the government for the time being is creating comfortable environment for the Election Commission for making preparations related to the local polls. Only allocation of the necessary budget is not enough. The EC has been asking for the endorsement of the LLRC report and laws related to the polls including the one relating to the political parties. Although endorsing LLRC report may take some time, there is no reason as to why delay in making poll related laws. Even with regard to the LLRC report, the government should take decision in time. For this, it has to hold intensive discussion with the UDMF which has been demanding that the number of local units should be increased.
Since there are other ways to ensure rights of the Madhesi people, the ruling parties should equivocally suggest the UDMF to explore options other than changes in boundaries of the provinces which has been highly disputed. It is ludicrous to see the leaders of the ruling parties to claim that the bill will be endorsed in the contest when the UML is unlikely to vote for it in the present shape. So far the government steps have been successful, but the real success will be achieved only after successful holding of the poll the government has announced.