24 Feb - 2 Mar 2017 #847

Jugglenaut

Madhesi parties are not on board yet, but Dahal is in no mood to back off
Om Astha Rai

Diwakar Shettri

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, after waffling for months, has finally decided to bite the bullet on elections. He stretched it for as long as he could to put off handing the prime ministership to Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC.

Madhesi parties are not on board yet, and have threatened to disrupt elections in Province 2. But Dahal is in no mood to back off now, since he needs votes to boost seats in Parliament.

2017 may turn out to be The Year of Elections. After two decades, there will finally be local elections for the 719 district, municipal and village councils.

Following a Supreme Court ruling that Parliament’s term cannot be extended beyond 21 January 2018, the government ran out of excuses to postpone polls. After local polls on 14 May, there have to be polls for provincial councils and federal parliament by the end of 2017.

Dahal faces hurdles all the way. He has to get Parliament to debate the Second Amendment to appease Madhesi parties. He has succeeded in defanging the transitional justice commissions (see page 14-15 and Editorials) but faces criticism from the international community.

UML Chair K P Oli finally allowed Parliament to discuss the amendment bill on Thursday as a compromise for elections to go ahead. But Chief Whip Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal told Nepali Times: “We will do everything to foil this amendment.”

The UML has concluded that the ruling parties will fail to secure a two-thirds majority, and is therefore ready to put the amendments to a vote. Dahal’s previous strategy was to win the vote by giving ministerial berths to Kamal Thapa’s RPP, Bijaya Gachhadar’s MJF (D) and other fringe parties. But these parties backed off because they knew Dahal’s days were numbered.

Outgoing Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae visited the Election Commission on Thursday, and reportedly told officials India was ready to support polls if held. The UML is asking Madhesi parties to accept the verdict on the amendment, but they are not in a mood to.

Mahendra Raya Yadav of Tarai Madhes Sadbhavna Party told us: “The amendment bill has to be passed. If it fails, the constitution will fail.”

Read also:

Constitution in crisis, Santa Gaha Magar

Chicken or egg?, Binita Dahal

C for Constitution, Anurag Acharya

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