KATHMANDU, Dec 15: At a time when the commission formed to determine the number and boundaries of local units under the federal setup is about to prepare its final report, major political parties have started a process to develop consensus over holding the local polls under the existing structure of VDCs and municipalities.
Three major parties, including the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) as well as main opposition CPN - UML, discussed about the issue on Tuesday. Addressing a program in Lalitpur on Wednesday, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba revealed that the three big parties have agreed to hold local body elections under the existing structure.
NC leader and Foreign Affairs Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat told Republica that parties are near to consensus to fill the vacuum at local level. "The local restructuring commission is yet to finalize its report while there are disagreements and disputes regarding the numbers and delineations proposed by the technical committees in different districts. In this scenario, major three parties have developed a consensus to hold elections under the existing structures," said Minister Mahat.
He also claimed that there is no constitutional hurdle to hold the elections under the existing structure. "The work of local restructuring would be more practical and scientific if it is done by involving the elected representatives at local bodies," argued Mahat.
However, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's political advisor Chakrapani Khanal claimed that the issue was discussed on Tuesday's meeting between the three major parties but it is yet to be finalized.
On the other hand, CPN-UML leader Agni Kharel said that the UML is in favor of constitution implementation and holding local elections under the new structure.
"In principle, we are in favor of holding local elections under the new structure. However, we have found that the ruling coalition is only talking about elections but not preparing for it, giving an excuse of disputes over restructuring of local levels. We have agreed to hold the elections under the existing local structure only because we don't want to give an opportunity to the ruling coalition to avoid elections under any pretext," argued Kharel.
Madhes-based parties want statute amendment prior to election
United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), the alliance of agitating Madhes-based parties, on Wednesday has decided to consult PM Dahal and NC President Deuba within a couple of days and ask for clarification on the issue.
"We will consult with PM and NC president soon and ask them about the progress on the constitution amendment. We had given a green signal to the PM to take forward the election process and constitution amendment bill side by side but if they take any step to put the bill on hold or withdraw it, we will disrupt the election process,” said Keshav Jha, the general secretary of National Madhes Socialist Party.
He said that the Madhes-based parties want local units under province through constitution amendment and the elections to take place on party-less system, the system where candidates at local level do not represent political parties.
Constitutional expert says no hurdle
Meanwhile, constitutional law expert Bipin Adhikari said that the transitional provision in the constitution allows the government to hold the local elections under the existing structure.
"It is necessary to hold local elections to fill the vacuum at grassroots level. The constitution has transitional provision to hold such elections. Elected local bodies are needed to fill the vacuum until the process of restructuring and elections of House of Representatives and provincial assemblies are completed," argued Adhikari.
He opined that the political parties have taken the right track though it was already late to hold local elections. "The local elections could help the country to implement the constitution and federalism in the country," he argued.