Govt, opposition in tussle over constitution amendment

Published On: July 9, 2017 03:15 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, JUNE 8: The CPN-UML will not be a mere spectator to constitution amendment, opposition leader KP Sharma Oli said Saturday as he warned to challenge the renewed efforts of the governing parties to revise the statute before elections in Province 2. 

An amendment bill that seeks to revise provisions related to representation in the Upper House, citizenship and language has been gathering dust in parliament since April due to the lack of political consensus. 

On Friday, the governing Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) reached out to smaller parties to canvass support for the bill. The role of smaller parties looks crucial as the government still looks short of a two-thirds majority to pass the bill through parliament. 

Despite their initial reluctance, NC and Maoist Center now look desperate to amend the constitution to appease the Madhesi voters and bring the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) on board the elections. 

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba appears even more desperate to get the bill amended with the hope to recover the loss incurred by his party, NC, in the first two phases of local elections.  The central and eastern terai is a traditional stronghold of NC and a solid win there could bolster its performance in the polls.   

Despite suggestions of some Madhesi leaders of UML that the party needs to tone down its rhetoric in view of the election in terai, UML leadership has dismissed the possibility of any change in its stance vis-a-vis constitution amendment. 

Talking to reporters at Biratnagar airport on Saturday, Oli said that his party would not support “the ill-timed efforts to pass the amendment bill.” 

“The ruling parties had agreed to bring the amendment bill after the conclusion of the third phase of elections in Province 2. The ongoing efforts to pass the bill won't be acceptable to our party,” said Oli. 

Oli's remarks signal another round of political standoff in parliament over the amendment bill. 

In fact, UML, which has stood against the amendment from the very beginning, may try to set up even bigger hurdles this time “to secure its larger electoral interests in Province 2”.
 By stopping the amendment, UML seeks to deny NC the chance to take credit for constitution amendment and at the same time appease the Pahade voters in Province 2 who are sympathetic to the party's nationalistic stance. 

The government should not face any difficulty in getting the bill endorsed if all parties in the coalition support it. 

But there are still doubts whether all parties will vote for the amendment. The last effort to pass the bill had failed after around ten lawmakers of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party suddenly disappeared on the date of voting.

“The amendment bill would have been endorsed that day had the RPP lawmakers supported it. It doesn't look as easy as it appears. But there is chance if all sides cooperate,” said NC leader Gopalman Shrestha. 

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