Parties opposed to the elections under the government headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi have continued to protest, further jeopardising plans to hold Constituent Assembly elections by June.
The most forceful opposition has come from the breakaway Maoist party, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), headed by Mohan Vaidhya Kiran, which has declared it will obstruct government’s voter registration drive to thwart the election.
Local media has reported on a daily basis this week that the CPN-Maoist cadres seized laptops and cameras used by the Election Commission officials for voter registration in several districts. The party also announced on Monday a ten-day protest programme culminating with a national shutdown (Nepal banda) on April 7.
Though no party leader has said it publicly, several leaders The Hindu spoke to said that they felt it will be postponed. The Election Commission’s newly-elected Chief Commissioner said on Tuesday that they would prefer to set a “realistic” date to avoid postponing the elections.
Before the last Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, the election date was postponed thrice in face of protests.
No common ground
Besides the breakaway Maoists, opposition has also come from the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal, Federal Socialist Party and more than two dozen smaller parties.
“Our first demand is that Regmi should resign as Chief Justice,” said Upendra Yadav, Chairman of the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal, “we’re not as hardliner as Mr. Baidya’s [Kiran’s] party, who wants the Regmi government replaced”.
Though the opposing parties have not coalesced around a single agenda, demands include that electoral constituencies be delineated according to the latest census results; and that the number of seats marked for marginalised groups — including women, Dalits, Madhesis, indigenous groups, and Muslims — ensures proportional representation in the new Assembly to write Nepal’s constitution.
But the parties opposed to elections under present government differ on the path forward. While the breakaway Maoist party demands a roundtable comprising of all political forces, the Federal Socialist Party — composed primarily of the Aadivasi Janajatis who previously belonged to the CPN-UML — want the lapsed Constituent Assembly revived.
Influence of ‘syndicate’
The opposition to the government, however, is not new. Even before Mr. Regmi was appointed as the head of the election government, they were complaining of what they call a “syndicate” of four parties that’s driving the political process.
An agreement among the four parties — Nepali Congress, United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist and the United Democratic Madhesi Front — led to Mr. Regmi’s appointment on March 14. The four parties have also formed a high level political mechanism chart the political process.
“We’re open to expanding the mechanism to include other forces to make the elections possible,” said Bimalendra Nidhi from the Nepali Congress. “But necessary negotiations for this have not yet taken place.”
When asked if the government was running under the directions from the four parties, a Minister and spokesperson, Madhav Paudel, told The Hindu that a Cabinet comprising retired bureaucrats was wary of foraying deep into politics. “But if necessary, we will conduct parallel negotiations to bring the parties opposed to elections on board,” he added.
Until those negotiations among the opposing parties, the four parties and the government happen, Nepal’s elections appear far from certain.