Find common ground

  • Ruling coalition and RJP-N should continue with earnest negotiations to reach a compromise

Jun 12, 2017-On Friday, the newly sworn-in Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba clearly stated the coalition government’s position on the constitution amendment: though they are in favour of it to meet the demands of the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), the amendment will be possible only after the second phase of local elections scheduled for June 28.

The reason he offers for this decision is valid: the scheduled elections are less than three weeks away. Deuba has continued to argue that resolving the issues raised by agitating parties in the Tarai is important to broaden the constitution’s ownership.

The RJP-N, meanwhile, has threatened to scale up its protests and even disrupt poll activities if its demands are not met before the elections. The party has demanded that the second phase of elections be postponed yet again. Yesterday, there were clashes between cadres of the poll-supporting Upendra Yadav-led Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N) and those of RJP-N in Sarlahi. It’s extremely likely that more incidents such as these, as well as additional clashes with security forces, could follow.

Yadav’s party is well into the election cycle. The RJP-N leaders feel that he betrayed the Madhesi cause and their frustration is even more acute because both Yadav and RJP-N are contesting for the Madhesi constituency.

The RJP-N’s alienation has been building up for some time. When the CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal was sworn in as prime minister 10 months ago, he stated that getting the constitution amendment bill passed would be one of his top priorities. He failed to keep this pledge while in office. Perhaps the RJP-N leaders now feel that they have very little to show to garner the support of constituents during the local level elections. And perhaps given the history of Nepal’s parties in making promises and then breaking them, they even feel that the Deuba government will continue to neglect their call for amendment once the elections are held. Hence the scaling up of protests before the elections.

In that sense, the RJP-N’s sense of betrayal and its pre-election tactic to extract maximum political concessions is understandable. While we have consistently called on the major parties to address the grievances of the Madhesi parties, we have also argued that holding three-tier elections—local, provincial and federal—would mark a major step towards consolidating the post 2006 gains. It is in that spirit that we have welcomed the new constitution despite strong reservations.

Now that the elections are just around the corner, we urge the government and security forces to exercise maximum restraint in quelling protests and refrain from a disproportionate use of force. What would, however, be a far wiser course of action is for the ruling coalition and the RJP-N to continue with their earnest negotiations to find common ground that enables the RJP-N to take part in the elections. 

Published: 12-06-2017 08:07

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