Finally, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s NC (D) has decided to go by the Royal mandate Deuba has — to hold the elections. The party’s week-long central working committee meeting concluded on Saturday, pushing aside the suggestions by a number of its senior leaders for keeping all options open, including constituent assembly and the restoration of the House of Representatives. During the heated debate, they had argued that at a time when there was “no possibility” of elections, it would be unwise to close other options. But the party decision is silent on the issues of House restoration and constituent assembly. Party president Deuba and ministers had stressed that as the party has taken part in the coalition by agreeing to hold the polls, this responsibility could not be ignored. And that sounds logical, too. Recently, at the CPN-UML’s 10-day-long central committee meeting, its tophats had a heated debate, for example, on whether the CPN-UML should pull out of the government. However, the party finally decided on the line taken by party general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal that it should stay on.
To avoid being dubbed incapable again, Deuba has to initiate the elections within this Nepali calendar year. The deadline set by the government for the Maoists to come for the dialogue is expiring on January 13. Given the rebels’ attitude so far and the increasing violence in the country, talks seem unlikely. The Royal mandate requires him to start the electoral process by restoring the peace to the extent possible. In the absence of peace talks, he would have no option but to announce a poll date. However, the problem with this option is that except for Deuba’a party, hardly anybody else sees the polls feasible even in phases if they are to be be free, fair and credible. Important foreign countries, the political parties and the civil society have expressed doubts about the polls in the present security environment.
Undoubtedly, elections are the best means of ending the present constitutional crisis and the confrontation between the palace and the political parties. They would reactivate the Constitution. But if the polls turned out to be a farce, Nepal could well see a repetition of Ukraine. And such polls would be worse than no polls. Hypothetically speaking, in the case of a failure to conduct the polls as promised, what would be the way out of the present constitutional quagmire? Certainly, Article 127, meant to remove any difficulty in the implementation of the Constitution, cannot be invoked indefinitely to justify rule without a popular mandate. Options should therefore be considered from now on to meet such an eventuality, and the calls for the restoration of the Lower House would then gather added strength.