PM’s address to nation
During his address to the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal emphasized the importance of timely local election in order to safeguard the post-2006 achievements. He said local election should be held at the scheduled date so that all three sets of elections can be completed by
January 21, 2018, when the tenure of the parliament formally ends. PM Dahal vowed to continue to work for amendment of the constitution in line with the demand of the Madheshi parties. But he said something even more meaningful. He said that if the Madheshi people are really unhappy, they can express this unhappiness through their votes in the election. We could not agree more. In a democracy, if some political problems cannot be resolved among political actors, these problems are then taken to the sovereign people and their final verdict is sought. We too would love to see the constitution amended in order to make it more accommodative. But if there can be no broad political
agreement on this, in which case the constitution amendment bill in parliament will fail, even in that case there is no alternative to elections.
PM Dahal also said he wanted to simultaneously take forward constitution amendment and preparation for local poll. But his emphasis on the centrality of elections was unmistakable. He said he was proud to announce local election after a hiatus of nearly two decades and there was no way he would back down from this responsibility. Indeed, if the three sets of elections are to be completed by the January, 2018, deadline local election must be held around May 14, the scheduled date. The Election Commission has already said that lumping together two or three elections would be extremely difficult in terms of logistics. It would be very confusing for the voters too. This is why there is no alternative to working towards the three elections on a war footing—and the prime minister, we are happy to note, seems committed to this cause. This does not mean the road ahead will be easy. For the Election Commission, two and a half months that remains till the local poll date is a short time in which to prepare. Moreover, the Madhesh-based parties have already said that they will not register for local election until the constitution is amended first.
It will now be up to PM Dahal to use his charm and guile and whatever it takes to create the most favorable condition for the three sets of elections. The attempt to get the Madheshi parties on board should never stop. But there should also be no lull in poll preparations just because this or that party is unhappy. All evidence suggests that the vast majority of Nepalis are in favor of timely local election. This will of the sovereign people must be respected. Those who are looking to scuttle elections are also trying to deprive people of their first line of contact with elected government. The long vacuum at the local level has already devastated governance and greatly inconvenienced people. It will be cruel to continue to prolong their agony.