Energising the grassroots

  • Local polls are imperative, so the UML and the Madhesi parties need to find common ground

Feb 22, 2017-The Council of Ministers on Monday announced that local elections would be held on May 14. This is an important decision, as it paves the way for the implementation of the new constitution. It also potentially makes way for a break on political inertia at the local level.

There were doubts about the current government’s ability to hold local elections. While such doubts have not entirely dissipated, the decision at least marks a step forward towards holding elections. We have repeatedly stated here that holding elections to all three tiers of the federal structure—to local bodies, state assemblies and federal parliament—before the tenure of the current parliament expires in January 2018 is imperative, and that failure to do so would lead to a dissolution of the House and a constitutional crisis. The legitimacy of the new constitution would then come into question. Local elections, therefore, mark a significant step towards 

safeguarding the gains made since the peace process began in 2006.

In addition, local elections also have the potential to revitalise local democracy in Nepal. The last time that elections were held here was 20 years ago. The failure to hold elections over the last decade has led to a concentration of power in top-level leaders and syndicates of unaccountable party members at the grassroots. The 

population has been helpless when confronted by unelected authorities. Local elections will give the population an opportunity to select their own representatives.

However, there remain significant problems in holding local elections. Already, the Madhesi parties have announced protests. They had long been demanding a constitutional amendment that will revise state boundaries before elections. This could not happen primarily due to obstruction by the CPN-UML. The three largest parties should now make immediate efforts to address the concerns of the Madhesi parties so that they agree to participate in the electoral process. But the Madhesi parties should also keep in mind that the no-election scenario will further consolidate the right-wing and left-wing forces. These forces, at worst, are hell-bent on undermining parliamentary democracy, or at best, want to reverse the post-1990 gains—

federalism, secularism and republicanism.  

Given the already-narrow time frame 

available for holding the election, it looks unlikely that there will be an agreement in provincial boundary re-delineation. But there could still be an agreement over other contentious issues—such as reallocation of the number seats for the local bodies in the Tarai. We still believe that the CPN-UML and the Madhesi parties in particular can find common ground that will make the local level elections possible and credible. 

Published: 22-02-2017 08:23

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