Good news: 2nd phase of polls will be held on 28 June itself
Bad news: Voting in Province 2 only after monsoon
The good news is that the much-delayed second phase of local elections will be held on 28 June itself. The bad news is that voting will take place in Province 2 only after the monsoon.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, under pressure from the Madhes-based RJPN, once more asked Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav if the polls could be put off again. Yadav replied: “It will be a political and electoral disaster.”
Yadav added that the EC is prepared for 28 June, the Home Ministry is ready to provide security, and delaying local polls will make it difficult to hold provincial and parliamentary elections before January 2018.
Deuba just listened, and did not push Yadav to agree. After he left the EC office, an election commissioner told Nepali Times: “Looking at the PM’s body language, I could tell that he had already made up his mind to delay polls, at least in Province 2.”
Two hours later, PM Deuba persuaded the Madhes-based RJPN to not obstruct polls in Province 1, 5 and 7 in return for rescheduling elections in Province 2 for a fourth time. But it is uncertain if the RJPN will participate in polls even on the new date. “Postponing elections is not a solution, amending the Constitution is,” says Tula Narayan Sah, a Madhesi rights activist.
The RJPN is pushing for amending the Constitution on issues like provincial boundaries, language and citizenship. The ruling coalition has already tabled an amendment bill that largely addresses Madhesi demands, but it has been rejected by the main opposition UML.
The UML slammed the government’s decision to delay polls in Province 2, arguing that it will create a psychological divide between people from the hills and the Tarai. Due to the UML’s stance on the amendment, some of its Madhesi supporters have defected to Tarai-centric parties. But the UML knows its plains base is made up of hill settlers and mixed communities along the East-West Highway.
“We are taking a stand against the amendment because it is not a Madhesi agenda,” says Raj Kumar Gupta, a UML MP from Parsa. “The RJPN is using the amendment as an excuse to delay polls because they know they are weak and will be defeated.”
The RJPN has bought more time to deal with intra-party rift, organise itself and probably emerge as a big party in Province 2. But it has missed an opportunity to contest elections in other provinces and rise as a truly national party.
In the RJPN’s absence, Upendra Yadav’s FSFN and Bijaya Gachhadar’s Nepal Democratic Forum have better electoral prospects in other provinces, and will probably defeat the RJPN in Province 2 as well.
Deuba IV, Om Astha Rai
21 January 2018, Editorial