Price of polls in Province 2

  • It’s important to get political buy-in from Madhesi parties for a two-phase election

Apr 3, 2017-

Prime Minister Dahal is under intense pressure to hold local elections on May 14, as scheduled. However, he has been unable to reach an agreement with the Madhesi parties, and this has complicated his plans. 

Even if he is able to forge an agreement in the near future, it will be very difficult to hold elections in Province 2. Already, election preparations are lagging behind in districts in central and eastern Tarai. The Madhesi parties have locked up government offices and are refusing to cooperate with election officers. 

As a result, there have been difficulties in putting together voter lists and selecting locations for polling booths. In addition, the Madhesi parties have not begun internal preparations for elections. It is for these reasons that the prime minister recently suggested the possibility of holding elections in two phases: first in the rest of the country, and later in Province 2. 

This proposition has met with opposition from other ruling parties. Nepali Congress leaders have demanded that elections should be held on a single date. In theory, this is a reasonable proposition. In practice, however, holding elections without reaching an agreement with the Madhesi parties could have detrimental consequences. There are already high levels of alienation in the Tarai. As the incident in Saptari last month demonstrated, the nerves of both protesters and security forces are on edge, and any incident can quickly lead to violence.  

Holding elections in two stages may be an acceptable solution if this idea has the support of the major political stakeholders, including Madhesi parties. But if an agreement is not reached, and the government decides to hold elections in all parts of the country except for Province 2, this could have damaging repercussions. The alienation among Madhesis could deepen. 

Reaching an agreement now will ensure that the local level elections, and the two other upcoming elections, will have larger political buy-in. This will also help in implementing the constitution, for the institutions of provincial and local governance cannot be established without the cooperation of the local population. And if they are excluded from the electoral process, many people in the Tarai could decide that they have no incentive to cooperate in the implementation of a federal structure that they have rejected. All major political stakeholders, including the Madhesi ones, should do all they can to ensure that the Province 2 election takes place now. If that’s not possible, they should at least ensure larger political buy-in, not least from the Madhesi parties, for a two-phase election. 

Published: 03-04-2017 08:01

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