It’s not done yetThe first-phase nomination has gone very well, but the second phase still has political hurdles
The candidate selection process for the first phase of local level elections was completed on May 2; some candidates, many of them in sparsely populated mountain districts, have been virtually elected, as they remain unopposed. So the election cycle, even in political terms, is well and truly underway.
By all accounts, the majority of political parties submitted nominations and the entire process was peaceful. The Madhesi parties too participated in nominating candidates, stating that they would launch protests if the amendment bill is not passed before the second phase slated for June 14. The nomination process somewhat dispelled the gloom that had shadowed the political sphere after the ruling parties filed an impeachment motion against CJ Sushila Karki.
Just a few days ago, there was widespread anxiety that the impeachment proposal would cause major complications. It was also believed that with the RPP’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition, the Dahal government might even collapse. Now that the candidate nomination process has happened, and that even some
candidates have been declared victorious unopposed, it seems likely that at least the first phase of elections will go ahead as planned.
This is not to suggest that the impeachment process should now be ignored. The ruling parties had probably hoped that the motion they filed would go unnoticed amid the election frenzy. They had no intention of pushing it to a vote. It would be sufficient for them to have the motion filed for the next month, so that Karki remains suspended for the entire period before she retires on June 7. But there can be no question that the impeachment remains a grave assault on the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers. The motion has aroused widespread opposition, not just from many political parties, but also from broad swathes of civil society. Even as the electoral process continues, the pressure on the government to withdraw the motion must be kept up. The motion sets a dangerous precedent, enabling the executive to dispose of judges and heads of constitutional bodies who seek to hold them accountable in future cases.
There is also a danger that the largely successful candidate nomination process could create an illusion that all difficulties in the path to local level elections have been resolved, and that the parties might grow complacent about the need to pass the constitution amendment bill to bring the Madhesi parties on board. A refusal to take steps to ensure the wholehearted participation of the parties in the second phase of elections could lead to widespread protest. It will be almost equally as bad if the parties hold the first stage of elections, but postpone the second phase indefinitely. This will leave over half the country without elected representatives and threaten the constitution’s implementation. Problems surrounding the demands of disgruntled groups should be resolved as early as possible.