The Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition government came into being, via a court order, after erstwhile Prime Minister KP Oli started playing fast and loose with the constitution. Oli had twice dissolved the federal lower house on dubious constitutional grounds and the Supreme Court had to step in to check his excesses. The parties in the current ruling coalition—Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center) and CPN (Unified Socialist)—had been up in arms against Oli and his ‘totalitarian ways’. But they seem to be doing no better.
It is unfortunate that the ruling coalition, and Prime Minister Deuba in particular, is trying to postpone local elections for partisan gains. Deuba and those in the coalition apparently believe local elections before federal and parliamentary elections will work to the main opposition’s favor. And so they want to put them off by six months by using a constitutional loophole. But the constitution most definitely doesn’t say local elections
should—or even can—be held six months after the expiry of the term of the local bodies.
It would be both logical and desirable to first hold the local elections in April—as proposed by the Election Commission—and then the two remaining ties of elections. Postponing local elections will leave a political vacuum at the local level, which the constitution does not envision under any condition. Last week, we wrote approvingly of the ruling coalition’s ‘agreement’ to start local elections on April 27. Perhaps we spoke too soon, placing our faith in the alliance to uphold the constitution.
If none of our major parties is committed to democratic values and so readily abuse the constitution, it will only be a matter of time before this constitution too fails, not because of its inherent flaws but largely due to its drafters’ failure to uphold its spirit. Again, better sense should prevail and Prime Minister Deuba should push ahead with local elections, with or without the support of his coalition partners. We expect a little statesmanship from the five-time prime minister close to the end of his political career.