KATHMANDU, Dec 13: The ruling and opposition political parties have begun quiet negotiations to 'shelve' the constitution amendment bill registered in Parliament, in a bid to resolve the ongoing House obstructions and create an environment conducive to holding local-level polls by mid-April.
Although the main opposition CPN-UML and the agitating Madhes-based parties are not yet ready to accept this, senior leaders of both ruling and opposition parties involved in inter-party negotiations expressed confidence that this could be a meeting point for resolving the current political stalemate and moving the political process forward.
Relations between the ruling and opposition parties soured after the government registered a seven-point constitutional amendment bill in Parliament that, among other things, proposes to split various hill districts away from Province 5. While the opposition parties including the UML have continued House obstructions demanding its revision, locals in various Mid-Western districts are out in the streets against the amendment proposal.
CPN (Maoist Center) senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha argued that such a proposal could be a meeting point and make elections possible. “The best option would be to secure the support of the main opposition party and the agitating Madhes-based parties to endorse the bill since it is already registered in Parliament. But since that appears less likely for now, we should be ready for any compromise that makes elections possible,” said Shrestha, who is one of the key interlocutors in inter-party negotiations.
The government must hold three tiers of elections by January 2018 in order to implement the new Constitution.
Sources said informal negotiations are underway among senior leaders of the NC, the Maoist Center and the UML on a proposal under which the government would shelve the amendment bill until there is a consensus among all parties. The opposition parties would then lift the House obstruction and the government would announce the election date in consensus with all parties, and move forward all election-related bills through Parliament.
CPN-UML Deputy Parliamentary Party leader Subas Nembang said the government's move to register an amendment bill vitiated the environment for polls as it was introduced without justification. “I personally feel that the meeting point could be to shelve the amendment bill and announce the local election date with a time-bound work plan for implementing the new Constitution,” he said.
Agitating Madhes-based parties, which have not accepted the amendment bill and are demanding its revision, appear little likely to agree with this proposal either. “If the government attempts to hold the elections without amendments to the Constitution, it is sure to face the fate of the elections conducted by then King Gyanendra,” said General Secretary of National Madhes Socialist Party Keshav Jha.
Jha expressed optimism that such a situation would not come about in the first place.
“We are optimistic the bill will be revised as the PM has assured us about this, and the UML will soften its position to help its endorsement through Parliament,” he added.