PM’s polls-in-2-phases proposal faces objection

  • Coalition partners, main opposition call for elections on scheduled date
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Apr 2, 2017-

Amid talks about major parties pushing for May 14 local level elections even if the Madhes-based parties refuse to participate, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is learnt to have proposed polls in two phases, facing a backlash from his own coalition partners as well as the main opposition.

As the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), an alliance of seven Madhes-based parties, refused to budge from its stance, 

saying the government should call off May 14 elections and focus on constitution 

amendment, PM Dahal on Friday had sought to know whether the Morcha would agree if he tried to hold polls in two phases. 

The stiff objection has come from his key coalition partner, the Nepali Congress (NC). NC leaders, some of whom have though been saying the constitution amendment bill should be put to vote before polls, have pressed for holding local elections on the stipulated date. 

NC leader Krishna Sitaula, who is also a member of a taskforce formed by PM Dahal to iron out differences with the Morcha, has ruled out the possibility of calling off polls or holding them in two phases. When PM Dahal came to power in August, there had been a deal between his party, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the NC that he would hand over the government leadership after holding local polls in about nine months. It has already been eight months since Dahal became the prime minister, and the NC is waiting in the wings. 

Besides the NC, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), also a coalition partner in the Dahal government, has also objected to the idea of polls in two phases.

While addressing a function in Pokhara on Saturday, RPP Chairman Kamal Thapa, also the deputy prime minister and minister for federal affairs and local development, made it clear that elections slated for May 14 would not be postponed “whether there is an agreement or no agreement [with the Morcha]”. 

The CPN-UML, which has not objected to PM Dahal’s ongoing efforts to bring the Morcha on board elections, has always been suspicious, as it has said earlier also that the government might postpone polls blaming the Morcha.  

“But postponing polls will squarely mean the government does not intend to hold them at all,” said UML leader Subas Nembang, adding that the UML will protest if that happens. Sources said PM Dahal is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the Morcha participates in the elections. 

The prime minister is in a bid to find a middle path to create a win-win situation, said a close aide to PM Dahal. 

“He is trying to ensure Morcha’s participation in polls after holding talks with NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and senior leader Madhav Nepal and RPP Chairman Thapa within Monday,” said PM Dahal’s Chief Political Adviser Chakrapani Khanal. “He will try to convince major parties for holding polls in the Tarai in the second phase and increasing the number of local units in the region to a maximum of 297 (40 percent of 744 total) from 253 (34 percent),” he said. 

The Morcha’s one of the demands is there should be 48 percent of local units in the Tarai region, as half of the country’s population resides along the plains. 

The Morcha, however, has said other possibilities--like elections in two phases--could be discussed only after the government moves the constitution amendment bill forward. 

Morcha leaders said the Madhes-based parties will certainly need “some more time for poll preparations” after the constitution is amended, in an indication that they could drop their demand of postponing polls and participate in elections if they are held in two phases. 

“But those issues can be discussed only after the government addresses our other concerns related to the constitution,” said Rajendra Mahato of the Sadbhawana Party.

During his meeting with Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party Chairman Mahendra Raya Yadav on Saturday, PM Dahal is learnt to have said that he would come up with a concrete plan on addressing the Morcha’s concerns after holding talks with leaders of the major parties. 

Published: 02-04-2017 07:47

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