Tue, May 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Nepalese polls in doubt amid move to impeach judge

Reuters, KATHMANDU

Nepal’s faltering democratic transition has been thrown into turmoil by a clash between the Himalayan nation’s Maoist-led government and the head of the Supreme Court that could derail this month’s local elections.

The impoverished state is nearing the finish line of a decade-long effort to overcome the aftermath of an insurgency and fall of its monarchy that would culminate in a general election later this year.

The interim step of holding the first local elections in two decades, scheduled for this month and next, is now in doubt after a top minister in charge of overseeing security for the vote quit his post on Sunday.

Analysts say the resignation of Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi could increase instability and one of the parties in the seven-party coalition government could walk out as a result.

“The local elections are in doubt because of the resignation,” said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly.

The trigger for Nidhi’s resignation was a clash over a decision by Nepal’s first woman chief justice, Sushila Karki, to overturn the government’s appointment of a new national police chief two months ago.

The two main parties in the coalition filed an impeachment motion against Karki on Sunday. She has been suspended pending impeachment proceedings, officials said.

“She has interfered into the domains of the executive and must be removed,” Nepali Congress lawmaker Chin Kaji Shrestha said.

The Nepali Congress is the largest coalition member.

Karki’s supporters say she has taken a strong stance against corruption during her time as head of the Supreme Court.

A committee will be established to investigate the allegations of bias, after which parliament will vote on whether to impeach her.

However, the process is unlikely to get that far as she is due to retire next month when she turns 65.

Analysts say the move to unseat a judge known for delivering judgments free of the influence of politics or personal ties was an attack on the independence of judiciary.

It has raised the danger of the parliamentary majority being used against constitutional bodies that do not obey political leaders,” constitutional expert Bipin Adhikari said.

Nepal has set elections to 744 village and municipal councils for May 14 and June 14.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, the third-largest group in the coalition, was due to meet yesterday to consider whether to remain in the coalition if the impeachment motion is not withdrawn.

Additional reporting by AFP

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