Ruling parties propose polls under existing local structures

Published On: December 14, 2016 07:10 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala/Ashok Dahal

Opposition parties also positive 
KATHMANDU, Dec 14: As disputes over the number and delineation of local units under the federal setup are likely affect the prospects of holding local level elections on time, the ruling parties have proposed holding the polls under the existing structure of VDCs and municipalities.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal made the proposal during a meeting with top leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and the main opposition CPN-UML, on Tuesday. Prime Minister Dahal argued that since the delineation of local units is likely to take some more time it would be pragmatic to hold the local polls under the existing structure of VDCs and municipalities. 

Although the commission formed to restructure local units under the federal setup was supposed to submit its final report to the government by mid-December, the body is unlikely to meet this self-imposed  deadline as the agitating Madhes-based parties have been obstructing its work in Province 2. Party leaders are equally wary that disputes seen over the proposed number and delineation of local units in various districts could vitiate the environment for holding the polls. 

UML Deputy Parliamentary Party leader Subas Nembang said it would be better to hold the polls under the new structures since the  commission is almost set to submit its final report. “However, we stand ready to go for elections under the existing local units if there is any danger of the elections not being held at all,” Nembang told Republica.

However, Nembang said the UML is worried that such a move could send a negative message among the people about the implementation of the new Constitution.

Talking to media persons after the meeting held at the prime minister's official residence at Baluwatar, UML Chairman Oli said they had positive discussions in a cordial atmosphere. Oli also said that they have agreed to give continuity to their discussions to resolve the current political stalemate.

Oli later briefed senior leaders of his party on the proposal of the ruling parties to hold the local polls under the existing structures. Oli maintained that the party should agree to go for elections even under the existing structures, although it was better to hold the fresh polls under new local structures. 

According to the prime minister's press advisor, Gobinda Acharya, Prime Minister Dahal proposed to settle the amendment bill and  local level polls in a single package. The prime minister had included the issues of local elections, constitution amendment, House obstruction and impeachment of Lok Man Singh Karki in the agenda for the meeting. 

As the ruling parties are against withdrawing the amendment bill and the opposition is insisting on its withdrawal, the prime minister's package deal is hardly likely to materialize any time soon. 

A meeting of eight various opposition parties including the UML held on Tuesday decided to continue with the House obstructions unless the amendment bill is withdrawn. They also decided not to support  the government's elections bid if the amendment bill is not withdrawn, according to Chairman of Nepal Family Party Ek Nath Dhakal.

Although the agitating Madhes-based parties are in favor of holding local-level polls under the existing structures, they are less likely to agree until the constitution is amended. “Of course, elections can be held under the existing local structures. However, there should be a package deal to move forward with the constitution amendment bill and hold the local elections,” said Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party (RMSP) General Secretary Keshav Jha.

Jha said the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) had the same understanding with the ruling NC and CPN (Maoist Center). “We won't accept elections unless there is a package deal on both these issues,” he further said.

Legal complications of polls under existing local structures
Should the major parties eventually agree to hold the local level elections under the existing structures, constitutional complications are likely to arise. The major parties will have to simultaneously reach an agreement to amend the new statute.

As per Article 86 (2 a) of the Constitution, 56 members of the National Assembly are elected from an Electoral College comprising members of the Provincial Assemblies and the chairpersons and vice chairpersons of village councils and mayors and deputy mayors of municipal councils, with different weights for the votes . Should the parties agree to hold the local polls under the existing local structures, they should stand ready to amend this provision in the statute. 

Sources said the party leaders are also likely to request the Bala Nanda Paudel-led commission to defer submission of its final report.

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