Federal Alliance announces protests to disrupt polls

Published On: June 12, 2017 12:45 AM NPT By: Roshan Sedhai

KATHMANDU, June 11: A day after the Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) rejected its call for constitution amendment, the Federal Alliance (FA) on Sunday declared fresh program of protest targeting to foil the second phase of the local elections. 

FA, a brainchild of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) Chairman Upendra Yadav, is a loose alliance of Madhesi and Janajati parties currently led by the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN).  FSFN, which was initially leading the alliance, has already decided to take part in the elections slated for June 28.

The protest program, which is scheduled to start from Monday and last till June 28, seeks to disrupt the candidacy nomination process of the Election Commission and poll campaigns of the political parties. 
RJPN leaders said that the regional parties were forced to unveil fresh programs of protest after the government 'turned a deaf ear' to their demands.
"There is nothing unexpected in our announcement as we kept telling them [NC and Maoists] that we would not take part in the elections if our demands were not met.  Now, we will not just boycott the polls but will not allow the government to hold the polls in Madhes," RJPN leader Rajendra Mahato told Republica. 
 Issuing a press statement after an internal meeting of FA allies on Sunday, FA coordinator Mahantha Thakur said that the agitating parties would launch a series of demonstrations including general strikes to disrupt the polls. The alliance has called an indefinite general strike starting from June 25 that leaders say is aimed at disrupting the polls.
Sunday's development, which follows failed efforts to end longstanding stalemate over the local polls, comes as a major setback to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was elected just a week earlier with nearly two-thirds majority votes including that of RJPN lawmakers.
The decision, if remains unchanged, is likely to create additional security challenges to the government to hold the polls in some districts of the tarai. 

RJPN has strong support base in Province 2. The government already faces significant security challenges in holding free and fair elections in some of the district of the central tarai which is considered home to secessionist groups including those led by CK Raut and Jaya Krishna Goit.
However, the extent of challenges the boycott could pose remains unknown as several agitating parties including Upendra Yadav's Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar's Nepal Loktantrik Forum have decided to take part in the polls. Moreover, some RJPN allies have also hinted at joining the polls if the current stalemate persists.

Even as NC and Maoist Center leaders remain hopeful of the agitating parties joining the polls before candidacy nomination process scheduled for June 16, RJPN leaders dismissed the possibility of their taking part in the polls under the existing circumstances.
Some RJPN leaders insist that at least some of their demands should be met for them to take part in the polls. Though RJPN leaders said they are flexible to the idea of endorsing the constitution amendment bill after the polls, they say that their other political and non-political demands should be fulfilled beforehand. 
RJPN has demanded en masse release of protesters currently in prison, withdrawal of criminal charges against those facing trial in connection with killing of on-duty police officials, martyrs status to those killed in the deadly protests and monetary relief for their kin. They have also demanded increase in the number of local units before the elections even if the task requires more time.
Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha, an NC leader close to Prime Minister Deuba, on Saturday told Republica that it was impossible for the government to meet other demands of RJPN at present due to time constraints. 

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