August 23, 2017 02:00 AM NPT
We applaud the decision of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), first to take part in the constitution amendment process on Monday and then to take part in the remaining elections despite the amendment bill’s failure. We take this as a strong indication of their faith in the democratic process. This puts to rest the fear that the constituent parties of the RJPN, starting with the 2015-16 border blockade, were increasingly distancing themselves from the political mainstream and gravitating towards undemocratic means to achieve their political goals. When the parliamentary bill they had supported failed on Monday, they readily accepted the outcome, as befits a democratic force. They also decided, again rightly in our view, that they would make the bill’s failure a political agenda for the upcoming elections. If the Madhes-based parties believe their demands have deep resonance in Tarai-Madhes, then there is every reason for them to take part in the third phase of local elections as well as the provincial and parliamentary elections. With RJPN in the fray, the upcoming elections, starting with the third phase of local election in Province 2 on September 18, will make for intriguing contests.
The RJPN also knows that even though its proposed amendments have been defeated this time, it can get a fresh mandate and once again push its agendas via the provincial and federal assemblies. Electoral democracy, by its very nature, is a long and torturous process. But it is also rather unpredictable. Today’s big parliamentary parties have main failings. The ruling coalition of Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) has, arguably, not done a very good job of helping the flood victims. In fact, its one-door policy on relief distribution has been a shambles. It was also the same coalition that controversially tried to sack an upright chief justice. CPN-UML, the largest political party to emerge from local elections, meanwhile, has sullied its public image by siding with the medical mafia and stymieing efforts to bring cheap and reliable healthcare to people’s doorsteps. Meanwhile, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, until recently the fourth largest parliamentary force, has imploded. So there is plenty of political space that the RJPN can occupy if it starts raising these issues that directly affect the people, Madhesis and Pahades alike.
Impending constitutional questions could be another potent arrow in its election quiver.
Now that we are done with the business of constitution amendment, our attention must quickly shift to holding of timely elections. It won’t be easy. The Big Three have decided that both provincial and parliamentary elections will take place on November 26, giving the Election Commission just 69 days to prepare. Meanwhile, it also has to take care of the business of the third-phase local election. Nonetheless, with the RJPN agreeing to take part in elections, there is now a realistic change that all three sets of the constitutionally-mandated elections will be completed by the January 21, 2018 deadline. That will be a big milestone in the implementation of the new constitution and with it the protracted and economically disastrous political transition will also come to a happy end.