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Stuck again

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

rajapaEven after postponing local elections three times in the Tarai as demanded by the Tarai-based parties, the government has failed to bring Madhesi dissenters on the board for the second phase of local elections.

Two back-to-back negotiations failed at Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s residence, and the Madhes-based Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) on Sunday revived its agitation aimed at disrupting the second phase of local elections on 28 June.

On Saturday, the RJPN had urged the ruling NC-Maoist coalition to postpone local elections for a fourth time, which Deuba rejected. The two sides met again on Sunday, and the RJPN urged the government to put local elections on hold at least in Province 2, but even this proposal was no accepted by the new Deuba government.

The coalition has instead decided to amend the Local Level Elections Act 2017, allowing the RJPN to register itself as a new party in the Election Commission and choose its election symbol, which it has refused to do citing existing laws.

The government also instructed the Office of Attorney General to appeal to the Supreme Court for review of its stay order on creation of more local councils in the Tarai. The ruling coalition has also agreed to address other demands put forth by the RJPN, including withdrawal of criminal cases against its cadres arrested during last year’s Madhes agitation.

But Deuba has made it clear that amending the Constitution before local elections is not possible. He told Parliament last week that he will try to secure a two-third majority needed to amend the Constitution, but that will happen only after local elections.

However, the RJPN was unimpressed, and unveiled its protest programs at a press conference in Kathmandu on Sunday. RJPN leader Rajendra Mahato said: “It is now meaningless to hold talks with the government.”

As talks stalled in Kathmandu, RJPN cadre disrupted an election rally by the ruling NC in Janakpur on Sunday. In Sarlahi, RJPN cadres clashed with supporters of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSPN), another Madhes-based party that has agreed to participate in local elections though its major demand of Constitution amendment is not met.

Analysts believe that the revival of agitation by the RJPN is just a strategy to put more pressure on the government, and bringing Madhesi dissenters on the board is still possible. RJPN leader Mahato also hinted at this on Sunday. Asked if the door is closed, he said: “It will always be open.”


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