The first local elections in 19 years have raised great expectations but also generated a lot of tension. Madhesi parties are protesting, demanding changes to the constitution before the vote. Encouraged by victories in India, Nepal’s Hindu monarchists want to restore a Hindu monarchy. The government defends the country’s secular nature.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal is getting ready for its first local elections in 19 years. The upcoming poll scheduled for 4 May 2017 has raised expectations among Nepalis, but also generated tensions, which have already led to serious clashes between the Madhesi minority and police.
Nepal’s Catholic community has called for peaceful elections, an event that will see the participation of four Christian-inspired parties.
"Nepal is to hold local elections after about two decades, we pray for consensus and a peaceful election,” said Fr Shilas Bogati, from the General Vicariate of Nepal.
“These elections should take place in a peaceful manner” for there is “No need for any violence.” Yet, “During the election campaign we have seen violence and clashes,” he added. “The use of force from both sides has to stop. "
By contrast, the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), the main Madhesi party, continues its protest. The party wants an autonomous province for the Madhesi ethnic group.
Last Sunday, protesters placed seals on all municipal offices and the village council in Saptari (south-eastern Nepal), demanding changes to the constitution before the elections.
For Manish Suman, leader of Nepal Sadbhawana, another Madhesi party, "Not only will we boycott the elections, but we shall also organise disruptive actions if our demands are not met before the election."
For their part, the pro-monarchist Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and other Hindu extremist groups presented parliament with a proposal for constitutional change.
They are encouraged by the appointment of Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu guru, as chief minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) dismissed the RPP’s request as contrary to the country’s secular and democratic constitution.
"We received the RPP’s demands but they contradict the present Constitution," said ECN chief commissioner Awadhhi Prasad Yadav. "Ours is a secular constitution. The provisions that contradict secularism are illegal."
Nepali government spokesman Surendara Kumar Karki agrees. "The rise of Hindu Babas in India will not affect Nepal,” he said. “We have our policies and secularism will not be questioned. Pretty soon we will go to elections to institutionalise the secular constitutional provisions."
The RPP seeks the restoration of the Hindu monarchy that ruled Nepal before Maoists took power in 2008.