COMMENTARY: Holding elections crucial for constitution implementation

Published On: November 26, 2016 01:36 PM NPT By: Deepraj Sanyal

KATHMANDU, Nov 26: The current political scenario in the country is highly polarized. The major political parties, which stood together at the time of promulgation of the constitution fourteen months back, are now poles apart at this important juncture of its implementation.

The major ruling parties – the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre) – are pushing for constitution amendment while the main opposition party, the CPN (UML), is balking at the idea. 

The assertion of the two major ruling parties is that constitution implementation in the true sense would be possible only when it is made 'inclusive and acceptable' to all sides, which means the concerns of the Madhes-centric parties are well taken into account. The Madhes-centric parties are not happy with some provisions of the constitution and want them to be addressed through amendment to the constitution. 

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on behalf the ruling parties and the government, floated a constitution amendment proposal which seeks to make amendments to the provisions in the constitution related to citizenship, the shape of the National Assembly- the Upper House of Parliament, delineation of the border of the provinces and national language. The main opposition party, on the other hand, says constitution amendment is not the present need while holding the three-tiers of election is the key to constitution implementation as it is mandatory as per the constitutional provision. 

It has alleged that the constitution amendment proposal has been brought at the behest of some foreign powers and to appease the vested interests of some leaders of the Madhes-centric parties. Some UML leaders have also challenged the Madhes-centric parties to prove the agendas they have raised, their demands included, by contesting in the election, rather than taking the country on a collision course. 

Although Prime Minister Dahal many times tried to woo the main opposition party into supporting the constitution amendment proposal, UML chairman KP Oli is not very convinced and has flatly rejected Dahal's overtures. He has said that his party would fight tooth and nail to defeat the proposal. While accepting that it is the government's right to table such a proposal in the parliament, the UML strongman has threatened that his party would make all-out efforts to fail the proposal. In fact, the party has called its cadres to come out in protest against the proposal and its proposition; and there have been demonstrations in some parts of the country. 

The Madhes-centric parties, most of which support the present coalition government, on their part are pressing for the constitution amendment. They have even given ultimatum to the government to register the constitution amendment proposal in parliament by the end of November, lest face their wrath – in the form of withdrawing support to the government and virulent protests. So far, this is the political scenario. 

Local elections long overdue 
Whatever the controversy over the constitution amendment, election of the local bodies has been long overdue. Though the country has moved ahead in practicing the democratic republican system since the time of the adoption of the Interim Constitution a decade back, the political parties have missed when it comes to consolidating the democracy at the grassroots by holding the local body elections. 

It is only when the local bodies that are the foundation of democracy are run with the direct participation of the people that the people get a sense of ownership over the system. The people want to see that the development works at the local level are expedited and all the administrative services are closer to their doorsteps. They want to participate in local development. This is achieved best through their elected representatives. So, the holding of the local election is a must for institutionalising and strengthening democracy. 

However, the sad part of the story in our case is that the elections to the local bodies have not been held for the last 19 years. 

Nothing else but the perennial political instability during this period, and lack of will power and capacity of the political parties is to be blamed for this crash of the foundation of democracy. 

The constitution can be best put into action by holding the local body election as is mandated in the constitution. The constitution itself will be in question if the elections are not held in the stipulated time, i.e. by mid-April 2017. If election to the local bodies is deferred and not held this time, it will invite another constitutional crisis, further exacerbating the political instability and fluidity. This situation might lead to political unrest and quagmire, putting the so-called epochal achievements into peril and a period of misery to the sovereign citizens.

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