In search of an election

  • Recent political events are momentous but there still are major hurdles

Apr 24, 2017-

A number of recent events in Nepali politics  will likely have momentous consequences. First, six of the seven parties in the Madhesi Morcha united to form the Rastriya Janata Party (RJP). This was an event long in the making. The Madhesi parties realised that unity was essential for political survival ever since their poor performance in the 2013 elections. There was also pressure from their constituents to unite. The creation of the RJP has instilled confidence in them as they enter the electoral process for the upcoming three tiers of elections.

The second momentous event was the agreement reached between the government and the Sanghiya Gathabandhan on Saturday. This is a singularly important event, as it achieved what the parties had long failed to do. The Madhesi parties have now agreed to a constitution amendment, which will include various measures, the most important of which is the establishment of a Federal Commission that will take a final 

decision on the revision of state boundaries. 

In addition, the parties have agreed to increase electoral constituencies and local body units in the Tarai. With this agreement, the Madhesi 

parties have decided to participate in elections, which will now be held in two phases. In the scheduled first phase, on May 14, elections will be held in provinces 3, 4, and 6. In a second phase, tentatively scheduled for  June 14, elections will be held in provinces 1, 2, 5 and 7.

This decision finally paves the way to healing the rifts between Kathmandu and the Madhes. Alienation and anger towards the state among the Madhesis deepened in 2015, when the constitution was passed. This was followed by protests in the Tarai. With an agreement, the Madhesi parties can finally begin to engage in the mainstream political process and revitalise democracy at the grassroots through local elections.

Still, our optimism is tempered with caution. For this agreement is only the beginning of the process—it does not resolve all outstanding problems. First, the amendment proposal remains to be passed, for which a two-thirds majority is necessary, which might be difficult without the support of the main opposition CPN-UML. 

The UML would do well to vote in favour of the proposal. It offers a way out of a protracted political impasse. Second, disputes over the federal structure have only been postponed, not resolved. They could flare up again. The political parties would also do well to appoint commissioners in the Federal Commission who are widely 

respected. They should be granted full autonomy, and their recommendations accepted by all.

Published: 24-04-2017 07:58

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