PM under pressure as UML demands election on time, UDMF wants it withdrawn

Published On: March 9, 2017 12:00 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, March 9: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is under tremendous pressure with the main opposition party, CPN-UML, stressing holding the local level poll on the scheduled date, and the agitating Madhes-based parties asking him to withdraw the poll decision.

While top UML leaders have asked the government to hold the polls on the stipulated date of May 14, irrespective of the protests by the Madhes-based parties, the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) leaders have warned of withdrawing their support to the government and intensifying protests if the decision to hold the local polls is not withdrawn within a week. 

During a three-party meeting held at the Prime Minister's official residence in Baluwatar on Wednesday afternoon, top UML leaders warned of stringent protests if the local polls were not held within the stipulated date. “There are demands to put off the election scheduled for May. We have clearly told the Prime Minister that the government must not bow down to this demand,” said senior UML leader Jhalanath Khanal. 

The main opposition party UML, which is currently organizing its Mechi-Mahakali campaign to pile up pressure on the government to hold the local polls within the announced date, has threatened to take to the streets if the announcement of the election is withdrawn. A meeting of the UML-led opposition alliance held at UML's Parliamentary Party Office in Singha Durbar Wednesday afternoon also announced to fight against “the conspiracies being held to foil the election and eventually fail the new constitution.” 

The UML-led opposition alliance consists of nine parties including CPN-ML, Rastriya Janamorcha, Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, Rastriya Janamukti Party (Loktantrik), Madhes Samata Party and Nepal Family Party. “The Prime Minister has assured us that he will hold the election at any cost,” Khanal told Republica.

Although he assured the UML leaders that he would hold the poll at any cost in May, the Prime Minister was already under pressure as the UDMF earlier in the day submitted a memorandum, threatening to withdraw their support to the government if it failed to meet their demands which, among other things, include the withdrawal of the decision to hold the local polls. 

Prime Minister Dahal had told the UDMF leaders that he would reach a conclusion about the demand to put off the election after holding discussions with the coalition partners, according to a press statement issued by his personal secretariat. 

The constituent parties of the UDMF have a total of 41 parliamentarians, who have extended their support to the Dahal-led government. "If the PM does not address our demands within seven days, the decision of withdrawing our support to the government will automatically come into effect," said General Secretary of Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party, Keshav Jha.

Sources said PM Dahal has come under immense pressure as going to the election ignoring the opposition by the Madhes-based parties is not going to be an easy walk while not holding the election would invite not only fresh protests from the opposition alliance but also a risk of not being able to hold all three tiers of elections within the constitutional deadline of January 21, 2018 and eventually fail the constitution.

Senior leader of the CPN (Maoist Center) Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who is also a close aide of the prime minister, admitted that Prime Minister Dahal is under pressure from both the opposition parties and the agitating Madhes-based parties. “The prime minister, however, is determined to hold the polls within the stipulated date. The election will be held in phases if it is not possible to hold it across the country in one go,” said Shrestha. “For now, we do not have any option other than holding the elections.”

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