After two decades, Nepalis finally have a date with the ballot box in local elections. After a rare third meeting of the day, the cabinet decided late Monday that elections to local and municipal councils will be held on 14 May despite opposition from Madhesi parties who want the Constitution to be amended first.
Immediately after the government announced the poll date, Madhesi parties announced a series of protest programs, including a one-day strike in the Tarai on Wednesday. They said they will disrupt elections in the Tarai, and boycott elections nationwide.
As the Constitution requires the government to elect local bodies, provincial councils and the new federal parliament before the term of the current parliament ends in January 2018, the ruling Maoist-NC coalition had been preparing for it for the last few weeks.
Madhesi parties that supported the Maoist-NC government were pressing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to announce elections only after amending the Constitution, but the Election Commission had warned the government that it was running out of time.
After weeks of inconclusive negotiations with Madhesi parties, the first cabinet meeting of the day decided to move forward the Constitution amendment bill right after announcing the date. The meeting held on Monday morning also decided to increase the number of local government structures in Province 2 – the stronghold of Madhesi parties.
It was an attempt by the government to woo Madhesi parties, but they were still miffed at the government announcing election dates without the amendment. As PM Dahal met the EC officials to discuss the poll date, Madhesi parties called an emergency meeting to chart out its future strategy.
Madhesi parties are now expected to withdraw their support to the Maoist-NC government. That will not topple the government, but they could try to disrupt elections.
Nepal has not held local elections since 1997, and the local government bodies elected that year had expired back in 2002 at the height of the Maoist war. Since then, a political cartel of unelected leaders has been making decisions on local budgets and resources.
Experts blame the lack of local elections for the corruption, under-development and the accountability deficit.
Go back to previous page