Maoist Chairman Dahal’s non-quake has repercussions across the political spectrum

Pushpa Kamal Dahal tends to do a non sequitur. He often does.

The chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) has once again suddenly created ripples across the political spectrum by proposing federal elections in April-May, at a time when the Election Commission has proposed local ballots for the same period.

In interviews published on Setopati, an information siteWednesday evening, and in Kantipur, the Post’s sister newspaper, Thursday, Dahal argues that federal elections should be held in April-May and local polls should be postponed to October/November.

Dahal in interviews claimed he presented the proposal at a meeting of the ruling alliance’s high-level political coordination committee on Tuesday.

“We asked KP Sharma Oli [chair of the CPN-UML] to allow the House to function for the last six months. But the main opposition has adopted a policy of obstruction in the House until this Parliament completes its mandate. This situation itself looks disastrous for democracy and the constitution,” Dahal said in the interview with Kantipur.

Dahal is correct that the main opposition is filibustering the House. UML has its work cut out for it. Its leaders claim that President Agni Sapkota has refused to comply with his decision to expel some of his lawmakers, thus facilitating a split within the UML. Madhav Kumar Nepal, one of the lawmakers ousted by the UML, formed the CPN (Unified Socialist) at the end of August.

But if the federal elections should take place first, in April-May, before the elections at the local level, this is a question that some political actors and constitutional experts are asking.

While the main opposition has vehemently opposed Dahal’s proposal, some ruling alliance leaders have commented, indirectly, against the delays in electing new local governments.

“The constitution we have drafted does not envisage a vacuum at the local level,” Gagan Thapa, secretary general of the Nepalese Congress, wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon. “Any electoral decision must be taken in such a way that there is no vacuum at the local level. Congress is clear: this government was formed after a struggle against unconstitutional measures, so any decision by this government must be in accordance with the constitution.

After Dahal made the proposal at Tuesday’s political coordination committee meeting, the leaders said they would “discuss the matter again on Thursday.”

But Thursday’s meeting was canceled. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba who is also the President of the Nepalese Congress, Dahal and Nepal held a meeting in Baluwatar on Thursday evening.

“The three leaders discussed the prospects for holding legislative elections in April-May,” a Congress leader said. “Deuba isn’t convinced yet, but he’s not completely opposed to the idea. Further discussions will take place on this subject. »

A meeting of the high-level political coordination committee is now scheduled for Friday.

Dahal’s proposal to hold parliamentary elections in April-May is seen by many as something against the rule of law and the system and an attempt to plunge the country into a new cycle of instability.

The UML did not mince its words. He says the Maoist Center is so afraid of the local elections that they don’t want to face it.

“Periodic elections are the foundation of democracy,” said UML Central Committee member Rajan Bhattarai. “So delaying the elections is a conspiracy against democracy and the constitution. It is high time we exposed such conspirators.

Dahal has been a central figure in Nepalese parliamentary politics since he came above ground after his Maoist party signed a peace agreement in 2006 and ended the “people’s war”.

The two-time prime minister is on the verge of losing his relevance, however. Although they became the largest party in 2008, the Maoists were relegated to a distant third party in 2013. In 2017, when the general elections were held, the Maoist Center had so many problems that it had no no choice but to follow the KP. Sharma Oli’s UML to secure some seats. The communist alliance worked well. The UML and the Maoist Center merged in May 2018 to form the Communist Party of Nepal (NCP).

But Dahal’s unease over failing to get the space he wanted led to infighting within the NCP. A cornered Oli dissolved the House on Dec. 20, 2020 and called for snap polls. Dahal vehemently opposed the decision, calling it unconstitutional. On May 7, the Supreme Court struck down the NCP. Dahal recovered his Maoist party.

Now Dahal, who wants the current Deuba-led coalition to continue, is proposing early polls.

Several leaders the Post spoke to said there were a number of reasons Dahal was advocating for the April-May legislative elections and one of them was fear of losing relevance.

A senior Nepali Congress official told the Post that Dahal may be aware of ongoing talks and negotiations between Deuba and Oli.

If Deuba agrees to Oli’s formula – table Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) pact, $500 million deal in parliament american grant, then the current alliance will fall apart, according to the leader.

The Dahal and Nepal parties are opposed to the MCC.

“It will mean that the Maoist Center and the CPN (Unified Socialist) will have to face the elections alone, without any alliance support,” the leader said. “It will mean that they will fail in the elections. Dahal is therefore pushing for parliamentary elections in April-May, well before the alliance breaks down. This way his party can secure a few seats.

But many say it would be wrong to undermine the constitution, the system and the rule of law in the interests of any particular leader.

Even a member of the Maoist Center Standing Committee said holding general elections in April-May and postponing local polls would put the cart before the horse.

“It will be an unconstitutional decision,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was critical of his own president. “I think that was his personal view and we wonder who gave him such a regressive idea. What he came up with does not reflect the party’s position.

Dev Gurung, a member of the Central Committee of the Maoist Center, said Dahal’s proposal followed the current deadlock in the House and the issue had not yet been seriously discussed within the ruling alliance.

“If the impasse in the House continues, it will invite unimaginable political situations. In this scenario, a state of emergency can be declared. Then the foreign forces might prevail,” Gurung said. “Thus, to avoid any untoward political situation, Dahal proposed parliamentary elections earlier than expected. If other coalition partners agree, the proposal will pass. Otherwise, the parties will find a new path.

Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Janata Samajbadi party, also a coalition partner in the Deuba government, said Dahal’s proposal was discussed at the highest level of the ruling alliance.

“I am aware of his proposal,” Yadav said. “The fundamental point is that we have to organize elections. If it is possible to hold local elections in April-May, let’s do it. Otherwise, go for the general elections in April-May. Let’s not put the country in limbo. Not holding elections is a bad omen for democracy.

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