November 21, 2012
Below is Prashant Jha’s November 20th article for The Hindu: “Nepal Government Announces Constituent Assembly Elections
Nepal’s Maoist-led government announced new Constituent Assembly (CA) elections for the Nepali month of Baisakh, between mid-April and mid-May 2013, on Tuesday. The exact date, government spokesperson and Information Minister Rajkishore Yadav said, would be decided in ‘consultations with all parties’.
This is the second poll announcement by the government after the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) ended in May, without delivering a constitution. On May 27, it had announced fresh polls for November 22.
But political and constitutional hurdles have prevented elections from going ahead as scheduled. The interim constitution, Nepal’s governing document at the moment, does not envisage a second CA poll. Legal experts suggested a possible solution could emerge if President Ram Baran Yadav uses his constitutional ‘power to remove obstacles’ vested in him under Article 158 to clear the way for polls. The Council of Ministers recommended such a course of action to President Yadav, but the head of state has said he would do so only on the basis of a political consensus.
The political consensus has been elusive as the opposition parties, led by Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), termed the government’s announcement ‘unilateral’ and ‘unconstitutional’. They have made PM Baburam Bhattarai’s resignation a precondition for any agreement. The Maoists, for their part, have urged the opposition parties to join the current government and transform it into a national unity formation.
With November 22 approaching, the government has come under increasing pressure for what the opposition termed as its ‘failure to hold polls’. President Yadav too has made the date a ‘reference point’, following which he is planning to formally call upon all parties to form a national unity government. The government’s decision to call for fresh polls is being seen by observers as a ‘pre-emptive move’.
In a mark of increasing assertiveness, the government also decided to forward a Nepali Rupees 300.064 billion budget ordinance for the remaining fiscal year to the president for approval. It had earlier, in July, presented a one-third budget, which has just run its course. The opposition had urged the president not to endorse a full budget from this government, and Dr. Yadav had asked the government to first seek a political consensus.
The opposition has criticised the government’s decisions, and said this would add to ‘political uncertainty and constitutional difficulties’. NC president Sushil Koirala said the government is ‘deceiving the people’, and ‘closing the door for agreement’.