At a time when Nepal’s political class is divided about the future political roadmap, President Ram Baran Yadav has said that fresh elections are the ‘only way’ out, and asserted that the revival of the Constituent Assembly (CA) could not happen ‘under any circumstances’.
His statement adds another element in the increasing tensions between the head of the state and the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which has been pushing for CA’s revival, and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who has accused the president of exceeding his constitutional rights.
Nepal’s national media, including the state’s official news agency, quoted President Yadav from his hometown, Janakpur, as saying, “The political parties have no alternative but to go for elections as per the spirit of the interim constitution and the verdict of the Supreme Court.”
The interim statute had prescribed a two year term for the CA, which was extended to four years till May 27 this year. While the government had proposed another amendment to extend the CA’s term by three months, the move was halted by the Supreme Court, which disallowed any further extensions.
President Yadav also pushed for the formation of a national consensus government, which would include the current opposition parties, Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist). At a program in the capital on Saturday, Dr Yadav had expressed his frustration with political parties, and demanded a ‘package agreement’ on all issues, including the election date. “The constitution has given the president the responsibility of safeguarding it. Now it is my duty to protect and follow it.” Opposition parties have urged the president to dismiss the present government.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Bhattarai criticised the president, and said, “The interim constitution does not give him the right to do anything. He is our guardian, and can urge us to work together. But beyond that, he cannot do anything. The parties are talking and will come to an agreement.” The PM has also blamed the president for paralyzing governance in the country by refusing to promulgate ordinances proposed by the government, including ones related to health, education and budget.
The president’s statement also puts him in direct conflict with the Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, who has been pushing for the revival of the CA. Currently on a visit to Europe, Mr Prachanda has argued that with a ‘little bit of hard-work’, parties could resolve contentious constitutional issues, and postpone the rest, including federalism, to the next parliament. In Brussels, he is reported to have told the Nepali diaspora that there will be a deal on CA’s revival by mid November.