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Thursday, January 5th, 2017

If 2016 began amidst a border blockade, 2017 has started with a blockade of parliament. One month after the bill was tabled for the controversial second amendment to the Constitution, the House remains blocked and elections are still uncertain.

After the Supreme Court refused to issue an interim order against the amendment bill this week, the NC-Maoist ruling coalition is preparing to debate it in Parliament. Its hope is that the opposition UML will come around. The Madhesi Front has decided to vote for the bill with a note of dissent, and the Federal Alliance may also support it.

Mahendra Raya Yadav of Tarai Madhes Sadbhavana Party, a key constituent of the Front, told Nepali Times: “The bill will not address all our demands, but we will support it.” The Alliance, led by Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Party, says it will vote for the bill if it also amends Article 274 which prohibits tinkering with federal boundaries without the consent of future provincial councils.

After the SC verdict, the UML may allow the House to convene, but is angry with the government’s decision Thursday to sack the National Reconstruction

Authority (NRA) CEO Sushil Gyewali, a UML appointee. However, even if the Front and the Alliance support the bill the ruling coalition will still fail to secure a two-third majority without the UML on board. NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba has assured Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal that it is his responsibility to ensure the required number. Deuba is supposedly offering ministerial berths to the newly-unified Hindu Royalist RPP and the MJF (Democratic) to take the number to the magic 394. Obstruction of Parliament has delayed the debate over the impeachment of suspended CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has resumed hearings on a writ petition that challenged the legality of Karki’s appointment. The hearing was postponed after petitioner Om Aryal and other lawyers argued last month that Karki lacked the experience and moral character to head the anti-corruption watchdog.

As the hearing resumed on Thursday, lawyers for the defence Sushil Pant and Baburam Kunwar argued that Karki’s service in the royal administration had to be counted, and dismissed accusations of his moral character. Karki’s lawyers sought more time, and the Court will resume its hearing on Friday.

With the impeachment motion in limbo in Parliament, all eyes are on the Supreme Court verdict.

Om Astha Rai

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