Delay in announcing dates sows confusion

  • local level elections
  • Cabinet decides to take LLRC report to political parties for discussion
- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Jan 28, 2017-“Local elections by mid-May” and “poll dates within a week” have become the leitmotif of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s speeches of late. 

Endorsement of two poll-related bills on Wednesday—with other bills on their way to approval—does give a sense that the country is heading towards local elections. But what is not clear yet is under which structure the government is planning to hold the local elections.

 At a conference of police and government attorneys on Friday, PM Dahal once again reiterated his commitment to hold local elections by mid-May. He also utilised the podium to hammer home the point that the country could face a serious crisis in the event of failure to hold three levels of elections by January 21 

next year. 

For the government to hold local elections under the new structure, the recommendations made by the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC) must be implemented. 

The LLRC in its report submitted to PM Dahal on January 6 has recommended 719 village and municipal councils in the new federal set-up. 

A Cabinet meeting on Friday decided to take the LLRC report to political parties for discussion before it is implemented. 

The Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs had tabled the report in the Cabinet in the wake of widespread criticism that the government was sitting on the report for the last three weeks. 

“The report will be tabled for approval only after consultations with political parties,” Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Karki told the media after Friday’s Cabinet meeting, in a clear indication that the government wants to buy more time. 

The Election Commission has already said that the LLRC report must come into force at least 100 days prior to the local elections.

In this scenario, even if all the election-related laws are put in place, the government needs to expedite the process to implement the LLRC report. 

On Sunday, while speaking at a book launch programme in the Capital, PM Dahal had said dates for local elections would be announced in a week—by Saturday. But on Thursday, in his address after inaugurating Parbat Mahotsav, PM Dahal said poll dates would be announced “this week” and that “an agreement has been reached among all parties” to endorse all poll-related bills by Saturday (January 28)—the date by which the EC had sought poll laws to be in place. 

As of Friday, only two poll bills have been endorsed by Parliament. 

What is making the government hem and haw to act on the LLRC report is it fears antagonising the Madhes-based parties which have ruled out the commission’s report. Even some leaders of the Nepali Congress, PM Dahal’s key coalition partner, have demanded a revision of the report, saying it has ignored suggestions from the local people.

The LLRC, which was formed with a mandate to complete its task by March, was spurred into finalising the report three months prior to its deadline in view of the tight scheduled the country has for holding three levels of elections.  LLRC members have already cautioned against any revision of the report. 

“The government move is disrespect to our efforts,” said a member of the commission seeking anonymity. “The government must not ignore the fact that it has no authority to revise the report.”  

The main opposition CPN-UML too has spoken against revising the LLRC report, saying such a move will violate constitutional provisions.

For the report to come into force, it has to be endorsed by the Cabinet and published in Nepal Gazette.  Once the report is implemented, the existing 217 municipalities and 3,117 village development committees will be replaced by 719 local units across the country.

Published: 28-01-2017 07:40

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