Yet another pall of political uncertainty as parties spar on local body restructuring

Published On: August 13, 2016 02:00 PM NPT By: Deepraj Sanyal

KATHMANDU, Aug 13: The restructuring of the local bodies has become a new bone of contention among the political parties of late. Many people had hoped the country would get a political outlet with the Madhes-centric parties participating in the Legislature-Parliament in the election of the new Prime Minister after a gap of nine months. It was expected to pave the way for initiation of dialogue among the parties for amending the constitution and ultimately to its implementation.

However, less than a week after entering the parliament, the parties in the Madhesi Alliance came up with an additional demand – that the commission on delineating the borders of local bodies stop its task of local bodies restructuring. This new demand of the Madhes-based parties has given rise to jitters that it might invite another round of political uncertainty.

On the one hand the Madhes-based parties have created a hurdle in finding a political outlet by putting a new demand, the major political parties including the now main opposition party, CPN (UML), are sparring over the matter. They are not serious enough on holding the local bodies’ election on time and thereby augmenting to the constitution implementation. The holding of local body election is so crucial that if elections to the local bodies, the provincial assembly and the federal parliament are not held by January 2018 there is the danger of this constitution being rendered defunct. It is clearly specified in the constitution that the term of the current Parliament expires after this deadline.

This means that the parties have the Herculean task of conducting the election of all three tiers in about 17 months from now. The achievements of the second Constituent Assembly would all be in jeopardy and the constitution also in question if the elections are not held within the deadline.

A new line of conflict has emerged in the country with the Madhesi Front and the Federal Alliance which had been expressing their grudges over some provisions of the new constitution throwing a spanner in the thawing political climate in the form of this demand on August 10, taking exception to the works of the commission, alleging that it has escalated conflict at the local level and was working in a conspiratorial manner.

The squabbling among the political parties that are directed towards failing the constitution at a time when they should be working wholeheartedly towards implementing it have raised the fear of another bout of political uncertainty about to descend in the country. It is not only the Madhes-based parties that are not satisfied with the works of the Commission on the Delineation of the Borders of the Local Bodies, even the big parties- the Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) and the CPN (Maoist Centre)- have issues with its works. But it is the Madhesi Front that has been vociferously demanding to stop the works of the commission.

The big parties are dissatisfied with the Commission regarding the number of local units it has recommended whereas the Madhes-based parties see the commission’s work itself as a ploy against them.

Upendra Yadav, the leader of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, one of the parties in the Alliance, says they have found the government was positive regarding addressing the demands of the Madhes-based parties and it would not matter even though the local body election is not held within April 2017. “It will not make any difference even if local body election is not held within April 2017 in the context of local body elections not taking place for 17 years,” he argues.

However, political analysts contend that if the local body election is not held within April 2017 as demanded by the Madhesi Alliance, the elections to the other bodies would almost become near to impossible. The Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre), in their agreement in the process of forming the present coalition government, have agreed to hold the local body election by April next year and the Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba to succeed Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the CPN (Maoist Centre). The Deuba-led government would hold the province level and the parliamentary elections.

The constitutional experts see the political parties trying to hide their ineptitude by creating controversy in the commission’s work as implementation of federalism is becoming more and more complex. “Although it is imperative to hold the local body election for the welfare of the people and the country, many parties were averse to the idea of holding the local election,” says Dr Bhimarjun Acharya, a constitutional law expert. Acharya, in an interview to a local paper, says nobody but the parties themselves were working to jeopardize the political achievements gained by the people and the country so far by continuing the status quo without holding the elections.

The Commission proposes to reduce the number of local bodies to make the local level stronger in line with the new constitution. Accordingly, the commission has curtailed the existing number of the municipalities, which stands at 217 and the Village Development Committees which stands at around 3,100 down to 565 combined. The Commission argues that the number of local units had to be decreased as the constitution itself stipulates that the local bodies would be autonomous units and have to manage their expenses at the local level itself.

The commission was formed by the parliament and it had a term of one year to carry out its task. Its term expires in February 2017. Its mandate is to delineate the borders of the local bodies and carry out the restructuring of the local bodies. RSS


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