Nepal Today

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

UML POLITBURO MEET ADJOURNED UNTIL SUNDAY Kathmandu, 18 April: UML politburo meeting to discuss election strategies ha been adjourned until Sunday. The meeting is preparing an agenda for a central committee meeting while discussing election strategy. Nnnn SETO MACHINDRANATH FESTIVAL BEGINS THURSDAY Kathmandu, 19 April: With the end of the Bisket Jatra in Bkaktapur, the chariot of the Seto Machindranath the joiurney of the Goddess of Rain from Teen Dhara Pathshala to L:agon begins Thursday The journey will start after the Goddess in installed on the chariot to be towed through Ason, Indrachowk, Haanuman Dkola and Lagon. Nnnn PROPOSED ONE PERCENT THRESHOLD COULD BE SCRAPPED Kathmandu, 18 April: With the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday to form the Constituency Delimitation Commission, it is likely to be tough going for the government, which is scrambling for bringing agitating parties on board, to materialise the elections at an earlier date, The Himalayan Times reports. The apex court order that the government form CDC could prompt Madhesi parties to raise the issue of representation in proportion to population. Similarly, demand for maximum representation of marginalised sections in the Constituent Assembly could also grow. And all these could eventually force the government to remove the one per cent threshold for proportional representation seats from the proposed Election to Constituent Assembly Ordinance. Amresh Kumar Singh, once a peace negotiator and currently close to the ongoing political matters, said chances of removing the one per cent threshold were high. “This seems to be standing as a bargaining chip between the government and fringe parties, and if the fringe parties join the polls, the threshold provision may be scrapped,” he said. The agitating parties are demanding that either the old strength of the Constituent Assembly (601 seats) be retained or 60:40 ratio of proportional seats to first-past-the-post seats be maintained. A source privy to current political negotiations said if fringe parties and indigenous nationalities continued to mount pressure on four forces and the government, the old strength (601 seats) could also be retained. Minister for Information and Communications Madhav Prasad Poudel, however, ruled out the possibility, saying government was not thinking along those lines. Former vice-president of the Nepal Bar Association Surendra Kumar Mahato said reduction of CA’s strength was not justified and therefore there should be no hesitation on the part of the government to retain the old strength. The government has invited agitating parties, particularly the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Nepal, CPN-Maoist, Federal Socialist Party and National Madhesi Socialist Party, for talks. While other parties are positive about the offer, CPN-M does not seem to be in the mood to oblige. “This government does not have the legitimacy to hold talks with us,” said CPN-M Spokesperson Pampha Bhusal. Fringe parties argue that the old strength of the CA was not a hurdle to elections and therefore there was no need to change the old strength by invoking Article 158 of the Interim Constitution. Nnnn NC JANAJATIS REVIVE FEDERALISM ISSUE Kathmandu, 18 April: Indigenous and Janajati leaders of the Nepali Congress (NC) have warned of “stern steps” if their demands to ensure ethnic identity as a basis for federalism and a review of its new definition of indigenous communities are not addressed soon, The Kathmandu Post reports.. They have, however, not specified what steps they would take if the party refuses to accept their demands of “multiple ethnic provinces with a single ethnic identity .” Some Janajati leaders that the Post talked to said they will leave the party if it fails to come up with a clear position on federalism , mainly while naming provinces. The leaders said they are not in favour of giving priority rights to one particular ethnic group, as proposed by the UCPN (Maoist). They said provinces should be named after a dominant ethnic group in a given geography, a position that the NC leadership disagrees with. A team of Janajati NC leaders led by Indra Bahadur Gurung met Party President Sushil Koirala on Wednesday and put forth their concerns. Koirala assured the leaders that the demands would be discussed in the party’s Central Working Committee (CWC), though there was no specific commitment in meeting their demands. The Janajati leaders demanded an amendment to the report prepared by a committee led by the late Bhim Bahadur Tamang concerning the party’s stance on federalism . The panel was against naming provinces on the basis of single ethnic identity and favoured the identity of all groups and communities. The party formed the committee in May last year after Janajati leaders submitted an 11-point demand. In the meeting with the Janajati leaders, Koirala agreed to appoint a new coordinator for the committee and rework the party’s policy on indigenous and Janajati leaders. The leaders have also objected to the party’s new definition of indigenous communities in Nepal. A political document presented in the party’s Mahasamiti meeting last week proposed enlisting all castes and ethnic communities residing in Nepal before Prithvi Narayan Shah’s unification as indigenous communities. “Such an objectionable definition of the indigenous communities should be removed from the document,” said Gurung. There is an internationally recognised criteria for Adivasi/Janajati, he said. Janajati leaders also accused the party leadership of promoting Hinduism by convening the Mahasamiti at Triveni Dham in Nawalparasi district. Mukt Nath Baba, a Hindu guru was allowed to address a closed-session of the Mahasamiti, where he suggested that the NC endorse the agenda of declaring Nepal a Hindu state. NC leader Surya Man Gurung said the party is hesitant to call Nepal a secular state. “A Hindu priest addressing the Mahasamiti says a lot about the party’s position on secularism,” Gurung said in an interview with the Post. The Janajati leaders have warned that grassroots cadres will leave the party if the NC does not address their demands. In October last year, a group of Janajati leaders, led by former lawmaker Kumar Rai, quit the NC, expressing displeasure over the party’s position on federalism . nnnn NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN NUMBEROF ELECTORAL CONSTITUENCES Kathmandu, 18 April: Although the Supreme Court has ordered that electoral constituencies be redelineated for the upcoming elections on the basis of the recent census, experts say there will not be significant changes to the existing 240 constituenciesM Bhadra Sharma//Ptanab Kharel write in The Kathmandu Post.. The Interim Constitution has a provision that says the number of constituencies should not exceed the existing 240. However, districts in the Madhes are likely to see an increase in the number, while those in the hills will decrease, according to analysts. Going by international practice, constituencies need to be increased based on population. “Ideally constituencies need to be added or reduced, depending on the increase in the population,” said demographer Tej Prasad Adhikari. “However, this may not be possible given the political milieu.” Adhikari maintained that the constituencies of at least 19 districts will be affected if existing constituencies are re-delineated on the basis of the 2011 census. At least seven constituencies will be added to the existing 15 in Kathmandu Valley. Likewise, Sarlahi is likely to see an increase of one constituency, while Kailali and Sunsari could see the number go by three each. Adhikari pointed out that as per the new census, constituencies could be reduced in hill districts such as Gulmi, Taplejung and Nuwakot. In the last Constituent Assembly polls, Gulmi had three constituencies, while there were two in Taplejung and three in Nuwakot. These districts, according to Adhikari, could lose a constituency each. Kavrepalachwok, Gorkha, Baglung, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha, Palpa, Parbat and Okhaldhunga are likely to lose a number of constituencies. Even members of the erstwhile Constituency Delimitation Commission claimed that the number of constituencies will not change significantly. Former member of the Commission Dambar Chemjong, who also teaches anthropology at the Tribhuwan University, said that social, cultural and linguistic uniformity, along with geographical accessibility, and not population alone should be the basis for re-delineation, like in the previous CA polls. In the Madhes, a constituency comprised 100,000 people, while it was 70,000 to 80,000 in the mid-hills and 7,000 to 10,000 in the mountains. However, senior officials at the Election Commission argued that any changes to constituency delineation can only take place in the 35 constituencies that were added in the last elections to the then 205 constituencies, following the Madhes uprising. “Since only 35 constituencies can be re-delineated as per the constitutional provision, the number of constituencies in the Madhes will decrease, while the hilly region will see an increase,” said Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety. If constituencies are to be re-delineated on the basis of population density, as in the past, the Interim Constitution will need to be amended, said legal experts. According to Article 154 (8), “the number of electoral constituencies in each administrative district shall not be fixed below the number of constituencies that existed at the time of the commencement of this Constitution.” However, Madhesi leaders argued that constituencies will increase in the Madhes and decrease in the hills when population density is taken as the basis for delineation. Promulgate electoral act without delay: EC KATHMANDU: The Election Commission has urged the Chairman of the Interim Election Government, Khil Raj Regmi, to promulgate an ordinance on amendments to the Constituent Assembly Member Act 2013 without delay. The request from the EC came during a meeting with the head of the government on Wednesday. Of the three acts forwarded to the government by the EC, the ordinance is still under consideration at the Cabinet, due to differences among parties regarding some provisions. “The ordinance is key to election preparations and the process will accelerate once the Act is in our hands. We have to prepare by-laws and make other preparations in accordance with the new Act,” CEC Uprety reportedly told Regmi. The ordinance has provisions of one percent threshold to be eligible for the proportional representation system and bars convicts from contesting polls for over six years after the completion of their jail term. It further says property details must be disclosed and Rs 5,000, up from Rs 3,000, must be deposited before contesting elections. The UCPN (Maoist) and the Madhes-based and smaller parties have opposed the EC’s provisions, while the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are supporting them, arguing that they are for “electoral reforms.” In the hour-long meeting, the EC suggested that Regmi form a Constituency Delimitation Commission at the earliest, in the context of an informal agreement to hold the polls in November. The parties had earlier agreed to hold the polls without re-delineating the constituencies only if the election was held in June. nnnn


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