Opposition to Chief Justice led election government

Nepal’s four major political parties on Monday agreed to hold the elections for a new Constituent Assembly by mid-June. This follows agreement on Saturday to let the Chief Justice head an election government. The election day will be fixed by the Chief Justice-led government after consulting the Election Commission.

The parties, however, are yet to announce the details of the deal on contentious political issues, including the composition and mandate of the proposed election government. “We hope to finalise the deal by tomorrow,” said Minendra Rijal from Nepali Congress, who is also a member of the taskforce formed to settle contentious issues.

The taskforce comprises members from the four major parties — the Nepali Congress (NC), United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front. The taskforce on Sunday recommended limiting the size of the new Assembly to 491 members, filling the vacant posts at the Election Commission and fixing the term of the Assembly to five years.

Another negotiator, who prefers to stay anonymous, said the parties had agreed on all contentious issues except two. These are on the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses during the Maoist “People’s War”, and determining the ranks of about 1,500 Maoist People’s Liberation Army soldiers who have opted to join the Nepal Army.

There are, however, other factors that could scuttle the June elections. The road map proposed by the four parties has faced criticism from both within the parties and without. On Monday, Chairman of the previous Assembly and a senior CPN-UML leader, Subash Chandra Nembang, claimed that appointing the Chief Justice as the head of the election government goes against the Interim Constitution. A writ against the appointment has already been filed in the Supreme Court. Middle-ranking leaders in Nepali Congress, including Gagan Thapa, have expressed strong reservations on the plans for a Chief Justice-led government, terming it a serious blow to the principle of separation of powers. Similarly, Rajkumar Lekhi, chairman of the Federation of Indigenous Nationalities — Nefin, an umbrella organisation of Adivasi Janajatis — called the plans to appoint the Chief Justice as the head of the government “a conspiracy” to delay a new constitution. Commenting on the taskforce recommendation to reduce the size of the Assembly, Mr. Lekhi added that Nefin would protest any proposal to reduce the proportional representation of Madhesis, Adivasi Janajatis, Dalits, women and Muslims.

Meanwhile, the breakaway Maoist party, CPN-Maoist, has called for a shutdown of the capital on Tuesday to protest the move to form a Chief Justice-led government, and the arrest of Maoist cadres on charges of murder of a journalist during the “People’s War.”

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