Nepal parties agree over November elections


Kathmandu : After being flayed for delaying the crucial election that is regarded as the key to peace and stability to Nepal, the ruling eight parties announced Thursday that the stalled polls would be held in end-November.

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Though no date was mentioned, the constituent assembly election, postponed from June 20 after the Election Commission said the security situation was not conducive, will be held in the second week of the Nepali month of Mangshir – between Nov 24-30.

The decision was taken after a meeting of the leaders of the eight-party alliance at Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's residence here Thursday, amid a dissenting note by the Maoists.

Maoist leader Prachanda said that while naming a fresh poll date was a positive step, his party was apprehensive that King Gyanendra, whose fate could be sealed by the poll, would try to sabotage it.

He said free and fair polls were impossible as long as the institution of monarchy remained. The eight parties should therefore abolish the 238-year institution and declare Nepal a republic before the exercise.

Last month, after the Election Commission ruled out holding the election on June 20, the Maoist chief blamed the other seven parties for the delay and said the ground for the peace pact between his rebels and the alliance had been demolished.

Prachanda says there can be a new understanding only if the parties agree to turn Nepal a republic through a declaration in parliament. Otherwise, he has warned, his once outlawed party could begin a potent, though unarmed, revolt against the state.

It remains to be seen if the election, which seems to be cursed in Nepal, would be held even in November.

Chief Election Commissioner Bhojraj Pikhrel recently warned the government that for a November poll, new election laws have to be made by the first week of June.

However, Nepal's parliament, the law-making authority, has remained paralysed for one-and-a-half months now due to protests by legislators.

MPs from the Terai plains have vowed to obstruct the house till the commission formed to delineate new constituencies for the election is scrapped. They say a new census should be carried out in the plains to provide the basis for new constituencies.

The eight parties Thursday did not agree to scrap the panel. Instead, they have chosen a compromise: to review some of the new constituencies recommended by the body, a move that could keep the parliament protests going.

Also, the law and order situation has been worsening alarmingly in the Terai, where armed groups have mushroomed, spreading violence and terror. At least two of them have said they would oppose the election, just as the Maoists did in the past.

But perhaps the most serious drawback to free and fair polls is the increasing flexing of muscles by the Maoists, whose sister organisations have been carrying out extortion, violence and other unlawful activities with impunity.