Talks to persuade RJPN to join polls fruitless

Published On: June 15, 2017 07:31 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, June 14: With just two days remaining before the date for filing candidacy nominations for the second phase  local elections as scheduled by the Election Commission, talks with  leaders of the agitating Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) have failed yet again.

Top leaders including Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal   held talks Wednesday with the RJPN leaders. But they couldn’t reach any understanding on bringing the RJPN on board the election scheduled for June 28.

Party leaders said they couldn’t reach any conclusion as the RJPN  insisted on constitutional amendment ahead of the election.

The major opposition CPN-UML and a section of leaders within both the Nepali Congress and Maoist Center are strongly against any further deferral of the polls.
“We have been demanding that the government ensure a favorable environment for the participation of all forces in the election. If the government fails to create such an environment, it will  prove unfortunate for the country,” said  RJPN’s Sharat Singh Bhandari after the  meeting at Singha Durbar. 

“It is up to the government to create an environment to accommodate all sides in the election.”

According to sources, RJPN leaders had said at the meeting that they weren’t in a position to participate in the polls scheduled for June 28. The EC had given   three days for registering their representatives at the commission. But the three-day deadline expired  earlier this week.

UML leader Subas Nembang said the prime minister promised at the meeting  to hold the election on the scheduled date. However, sources said  Deuba and Dahal are for bringing the RJPN on board the election even at the cost of deferring the polls for a few days more.
The parties have decided to resume talks with the RJPN on Thursday. 

What next?
Despite its last-minute preparations to postpone the polls,  troubles look far from over for Prime Minister Deuba’s government. Poll postponement might provide some immediate relief to the government but it does not necessarily ensure RJPN’s participation on the new date.

It is a tricky situation as the RJPN has refused to give a commitment to take part in polls on the new date. The party has insisted that all  its demands should be met before going to polls, something unlikely to happen due to lack of political consensus.  
RJPN Vice Chairman Brishesh Chandra Lal said that deferring elections alone would make little difference.

“Our demand is not poll postponement. Our demand is constitution amendment and increase in the number of local units before polls. If the government fails to bring this about, it would be meaningless to defer polls,” said Lal.

But the governing NC and Maoist Center don’t have any plans to amend the constitution nor do they have a two-thirds majority in the House.

Earlier this week, NC leader Gopalman Shrestha, who is also the minister for education, told Republica that it was not possible to endorse the constitution amendment.
“With the Supreme Court’s stay order, the possibility of increasing the number of local units has ended. But we are open to other demands,” said Shrestha.

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