Govt stays amendment to seek UDMF commitment to polls

Published On: November 28, 2016 07:24 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Nov 28: With a view to seeking a commitment from the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) to take part in elections following the amendment, the government did not register the much-awaited constitution amendment bill in Parliament on Sunday.

The government has sought a commitment from the agitating parties to participate in subsequent elections and own up to the amendment proposal, before registering it in Parliament.

Leaders of the UDMF, however, stated that they can’t give their word on joining the elections without first seeing changes in the Constitution that address their demands.

A cabinet meeting on Sunday was expected to endorse the amendment bill. But after the prime minister failed to get such a commitment from the UDMF, the meeting decided not to endorse the bill for now. 

The prime minister has decided to hold talks with the agitating parties once again and solicit their commitment on owning the amendment bill and participating in the three sets of elections to be held by January 2018 as envisioned by the new Constitution.     

However, the chief of one of the constituent parties of UDMF told Republica that the UDMF won’t accept any precondition prior to the amendment of the Constitution. 

“There is no point amending the Constitution if the UDMF does not own the amendment. So, the government postponed the decision on the bill in order to hold further talks with the UDMF and bring them on board,” said Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak. 

He said that the cabinet is likely to endorse the bill on Monday if talks with the agitating parties yield a positive result. 

CPN (Maoist Center) leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha said that the ruling parties are for seeking a commitment from the UDMF leaders on participation in the elections, before registering the bill in Parliament, . 

“The prime minister will talk to the UDMF leaders, including Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) Chairman Upendra Yadav, as a last-ditch effort to bring them on board,” Shrestha added. 

Some leaders from the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and also from the Maoists have opposed the government plan to revise the demarcations of Province-5. Minister for Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ajay Shankar Nayak said that the prime minister is not for registering the amendment proposal without first taking the consent of the agitating parties. 

“The amendment proposal has already sparked a dispute within the ruling parties and further alienated the main opposition CPN-UML. The prime minister is not for moving forward the amendment proposal if the agitating parties do not own it,” said Nayak.

At the same time, Chairman Rajendra Mahato of Sadbhawana Party, a constituent of the UDMF, argued that they cannot give their word on election participation prior to the endorsement of the amendment bill. “We are not for accepting any preconditions on constitution amendment. We will resume our protests if the government fails to register the amendment proposal within a few days,” he said. 

Asked about owning the amendment proposal, Mahato said it was too early to comment as the parties were yet to get a final draft of the proposal.

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