PM says statute amendment, elections top priority

Kathmandu, October 26

Visibly upbeat about developments surrounding the impeachment motion in Parliament, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal now has his eyes set on constitution amendment and elections.

Differences between the ruling coalition and the main opposition parties are narrowing and the three parties are nearly on the same page on the issues of constitution amendment and implementation.

Speaking to editors shortly after his one-and-a-half hour meeting with Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, he said, “This is the first meeting between the three top leaders after I returned as prime minister,” Dahal said, hinting at improving relations between the major forces.

“The impeachment motion against Lok Man Singh Karki could bring the three parties together to push for constitution amendment,” Dahal said. Both need two-thirds of the House vote, which can only be possible if the NC, UML and CPN-MC stand together.

“Of course, we need to engage with and bring on board the Madhesi parties and their alliance, who have been demanding constitution amendment.”

“On constitution amendment, I personally feel we need to be more flexible on key issues to accommodate the demands of the agitating Federal Alliance,” Dahal said. “We will have to redraw boundaries of some provinces and the issue of national language also needs to be worked out.”

He said an earlier understanding between NC and CPN-UML on the number and demarcation of

provinces could be considered a basis for redrawing the provinces for the time being.

“A federal commission will soon be formed to recommend and settle the issue of provincial  boundaries in the long run.”

The PM said the tricky issue of citizenship could be resolved by reverting to the provisions of the interim constitution, while formation of the National Assembly  could be altered a bit.

As per the existing provisions, the Assembly consists of 59 members – eight from each of the seven provinces and three nominated by the president. “That number of provincial representation can be brought down, thus allowing the most populated provinces to send proportionately more representatives to the Upper House.”

These options are also being discussed with Madhesi parties. The PM said he hoping to reach agreement soon enough. Such amendments could address the concerns of the Madhesi parties, he said.

“I am now turning my focus on forging alliance with political parties, warming and normalising relations with immediate neighbours, speeding up reconstruction and giving people a sense of good governance in the run-up to the elections,” Dahal said.

Even as other parties are considering options, the prime minister said he was in favour of holding local elections first around April-May 2017. “That looks natural to me and that’s my clear target. Skipping local elections will only derail things.”

The provincial and federal elections could be held on the same date, some time in the month of November or December 2017, he said.