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The year of elections

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Pic: Bikram Rai

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, after waffling for months, has finally decided to bite the bullet on elections. He stretched it for as long as he could because once local elections are held in May, he has to vacate the prime ministership to Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC.

Madhesi parties are not on board yet, and have threatened to disrupt elections in Province 2. But Dahal is in no mood to back off now, he too needs elections to boldter his party’s numbers in Parliament.

2017 may turn out to be The Year of Elections. After two decades, there will finally be elections for 34,203 representatives in 719 local councils and municipalities.

Following a Supreme Court ruling that Parliament’s term cannot be extended beyond 21 January 2018, the government ran out of excuses to postpone polls. After local elections on 14 May, there have to be polls for provincial councils and federal parliament by the end of 2017.

Dahal faces hurdles all the way. He has to get Parliament to debate the Second Amendment to appease the Tarai-based parties who are still balking. He has succeeded in defanging the transitional justice commissions but faces criticism from the international community.

UML Chair K P Oli has finally allowed Parliament to discuss the amendment bill from Thursday as a compromise for elections to go ahead. But Chief Whip Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal told Nepali Times: “We will do everything to foil this amendment.”

The UML had obstructed the House for two months, but has concluded that the ruling parties will fail to secure a two-thirds majority and is therefore ready to put the amendments to a vote.

Dahal’s previous strategy was to win the vote by giving ministerial berths to Kamal Thapa’s RPP, Bijaya Gachhadar’s MJF (D) and other fringe parties. But these parties backed off because they knew Dahal’s days were numbered.

Outgoing Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae visited the Election Commission on Thursday, and reportedly told officials India was ready to support elections if they are held. The UML is now asking Madhesi parties to accept the verdict of the vote on the amendment, but they are not in a mood to.

Mahendra Raya Yadav of Tarai Madhes Sadbhavna Party told us: “The amendment bill has to be passed. If it fails, the constitution will fail.”

Om Astha Rai


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