Stay on the message
- Prime Minister Dahal needs to be consistent about his position on elections
Feb 6, 2017-
When the CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Dahal was elected prime minister six months ago, we echoed the Nepali people’s nervousness about frequent changes in government. Quick changes lead to policy confusion; such a change, in Nepal’s case, is also invariably associated with changes in key personnel.
Still, we were encouraged by the new prime minister’s emphasis on political consensus and his resolute position that the political stalemate over the Madhes needed to be resolved quickly. This then would pave the way to elections. The constitution mandates that elections in three tiers—local, provincial and national—be held by January next year. Clearly, the hard position the then Prime Minister KP Oli had taken against the Madhes had much polaraised Nepali politics.
In a parliamentary vote to elect the new prime minister, Dahal secured 363 votes (most notably supported by the Nepali Congress and the Madhesi parties) while 210 votes were cast against him. Oli’s party, the UML, was clearly angered by Dahal’s
decision to breach the ‘nationalist’ alliance.
Six months on, Prime Minister Dahal finds himself facing the moment of truth. His continuous doublespeak on elections has confused the Nepali people at best and alarmed them at worst. What does the prime minister really want? It is unfortunate that many are now beginning to conclude that he just wants to hang on to power without a clear roadmap.
Dahal seemed to have alienated the Madhesi
constituency when he said that he was going to announce the elections, with or without the amendment. On Friday, it was the Nepali Congress, his coalition partner, that stayed away from talks with the Madhesi parties. The NC leadership is
dismayed that Dahal has failed to win the confidence of both the UML and the Madhesi parties.
This is not to argue that Prime Minister Dahal’s position is easy. The UML has remained steadfast that it will not support the amendment proposal, while the Madhesi parties have threatened that they could boycott any election without the amendment.
This is where the prime minister’s political skills will be much tested. To many, including the Nepali Congress, he gives the impression that he does not stand for elections—whatever his pro-election polemic. He has even been questioned from within his party about his political roadmap.
Yes, the Election Commission has said on numerous occasions that it needs laws well in advance to hold an election. But we reiterate that the most difficult problem is still political. The parties have not been able to agree on whether local elections should be held under the old system or the new one, and the question of local level
elections is deeply intertwined with the issue of constitution amendment. Dahal has his task cut out: taking a clear position on elections and communicating it clearly to the people.
Published: 06-02-2017 08:14