Still in a fix

  • Much work is needed before amendment bill passes or elections take place

Dec 29, 2016-

The current government, when it came to power over four months ago, pledged to pass a constitution amendment bill through Parliament to address the demands of the Madhesi parties. However, the fate of the bill has been a complicated one, and it was only registered in Parliament last month amid deep opposition by the CPN-UML and ambivalence among the Madhesi parties. Doubts about whether the bill will pass persist. 

But there has been some progress on the matter. The ruling party has been trying hard to pass the bill so as to address demands of the Madhesi 

parties, while aiming to hold elections to all three levels by January 2018. The tenure of the current Parliament will end by that date, and it will lose legitimacy if fresh elections aren’t held by then.

The first of the government’s recent accomplishments has been to get the majority of the Madhesi parties to support the amendment with some reservations. This was no easy task, since many of them were very critical of the bill until recently. Secondly, the government now seems to have adopted a more flexible approach towards the UML, in the hope that it will persuade the main opposition party to support the amendment bill. 

The Madhesi Morcha, in recent rounds of negotiation, has agreed to take part in elections after the constitution amendment bill is passed. This is significant since it is the first time that the parties in the Morcha have agreed to the elections. The government now hopes to table the amendment bill and the election-related bills in Parliament as part of a package. 

This is intended to placate the UML, which has long argued that the amendment bill is unnecessary and that it is far more important to hold local level elections soon. The ruling parties hope that by demonstrating a firm commitment to hold local elections, they can get the UML to support the amendment bill.

While this is a positive step, there is still much work to be done before the amendment bill passes or elections take place. Many of the UML’s constituents continue to oppose the re-delineation of provincial boundaries as provided by the amendment. It is also likely that disputes will arise over whether local elections should be held on the basis of the old structure of local governance or the new one as per the new constitution. The UML is likely to support the former, while the Madhesi parties will probably argue in favour of the latter. 

This matter is currently in the Supreme Court. It is necessary for the government to clarify this matter and seek consensus on the type of elections that will be held in order to avert a constitutional crisis and move towards implementing the constitution.

Published: 29-12-2016 08:17

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