Look before you leap
- It is essential to gain the confidence of the disgruntled groups before heading to elections
Jan 23, 2017- After months of conflict over constitution amendment and the modalities of elections at the local, provincial and federal levels, the major parties have finally reached an informal agreement. They have decided to hold local elections by May, and provincial and federal elections by December. This decision is the result of pressure by the Election Commission, which has stated that it will not be able to hold local elections by May if the parties fail to pass all relevant legislation by the end of this month.
So to a certain extent the EC’s warning appears to have worked. For the first time in a while, the CPN-UML has managed to reach an agreement with the Maoist (Unity Centre) and the Nepali Congress. Still, there is a massive difference between simply committing to hold elections and actually passing all the relevant legislation.
In reality, the agreement is deceptive. It ignores the fact that the underlying conditions are still not conducive to an election. The UML might seem on the surface to have reached an agreement with the ruling parties. But they still have underlying differences. The ruling parties want to pass the constitution amendment bill before holding elections; the UML wants to hold elections without any constitutional amendment. This will continue to be a source of disagreement in the days ahead. Besides, numerous election-related laws are still pending and it will require a great deal of effort to have them passed in Parliament by the end of this month.
It is striking that the Madhesi parties were ignored in the recent meeting between the three major parties. This indicates the difficulties of getting the Madhesi parties on board. It has to be said that there has been some attempt to fulfill Madhesi demands. The parties have decided to hold local elections based on the system provided by the new constitution rather than the old one. This has been a long-standing Madhesi demand. However, this by itself will not be able to resolve the problem. The Madhesi parties continue to state that they will not participate in elections until the amendment bill is passed.
But for the major parties, the issue of amendment seems to have been pushed to the backburner. This is a mistake. The constitution amendment bill has to be passed before elections are held. Any attempt to hold elections without doing this will lead to a great deal of opposition in the Tarai. It is not possible to predict what exactly will happen. But tensions during election periods have often led to violence. It is essential to gain the confidence of the disgruntled groups before heading to elections.
Published: 23-01-2017 08:21