By Prabasi Nepali
Local Elections in Nepal & Internal Developments
Various incidents on the Nepal-India border could possibly influence the approaching local elections Mid-May. A fortnight back, a Nepali national, GovindaGautam was shot dead on Nepalese territory by the Indian border police (SSB/SeemaSurakshaBal) from across the border in Kanchanpur. Nepalese people were gathered here to protest a culvert built on Nepalese territory. Even before details of the incident could be investigated, the Indian Embassy was very prompt in denying any wrongdoing. The Nepal Government took the easy way out washing its hands of the affair by declaring ShriGautam a martyr and giving his widow Rs. 10 lakhs. There was no strong protest to the Indian government.
It seems that Nepalese of the locality (disgusted with their own government) took the law into their own hands by allegedly burning down a patrol hut of the SSB at the Indo-Nepalese border. Strangely, this news did not appear in the Nepali media, but was published by the establishment “Times of India” (TOI). This paper further wrote that Indians were apprehensive that the situation may worsen further and ‘mobs’ may target standing crops of Indian farmers along the border. The Government of Nepal (GooN) is apparently failing in damage control. This was in the south-west. Now in the south-east, Goon also failed miserably to stop India from building a road on no-man’s land in Morang (vide The People’s Review, March 23-29, 2017) — a clear violation of bilateral treaties and international law.
The Nepal government also seems hell bent in spitting in the eye of the sovereign people. If it does not respect the laws of the land, how can it expect the people to do so? Just as an example, the Supreme Court of the land quashed the Cabinet decision to appoint DIG Jaya Bahadur Chand as the inspector general of police (IGP) more than a week ago. There was no rhyme or reason for superseding DIG Nawa Raj Silwal who was superior on all counts — seniority, efficiency, performance, capacity to take on responsibility and ability to provide leadership and mobilize juniors. Instead of appointing DIG Silwal as the new IGP pronto, as ordered by the Supreme Court, the Nepal government is only dilly dallying. It does seem that PM Pushpa Kamal Prachanda (PKP) and Nepali Congress boss, the lion-hearted Deuba, have a secret axe to grind!
French Presidential Elections Approach
In the run-up to the French Presidential elections in April (first round) and May (second and final round between the two best placed candidates from the first), the far-right presidential candidate Ms. Marine Le Pen last Friday went to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader, under attack in the United States for interfering in the presidential elections there, was quick to note that the Kremlin does not meddle in France’s internal politics. However, it is well known that Russian banks have funded the far-right party.
There is very much at stake in the French elections next month. There is every chance that the next president of France will be Madame Le Pen. And this could very well herald the end for the European Union (EU). The fact is that she already commands the support of one-fourth of the French electorate. She is the leader of one of the oldest far-right parties in Europe, and her National Front perceives victory as within grasp, so to say in “the third battle” — after Brexit and the Trump triumph. This is because attitudes towards the EU are changing. According to analysts, the broad acceptance of the early years has transformed to an instinctive skepticism from the 1980s onward. A Le Pen victory would surely underscore the fact that the Europeans are now in open rebellion.
Ms. Le Pen demands a return to full national sovereignty in an era where the EU is facing crises on multiple fronts. Her first line of attack would be the Euro currency union, which she views as a political weapon. Her party insists (albeit in muddled mixed metaphors and in macabre style): “The French people are sitting on the Titanic, known as the euro, and they are listening to the violins. We are going to push them off and into the lifeboats.” It is expected that already in her first year of presidency, she would cite Article 11 of the French Constitution to conduct a referendum on whether France should leave the EU, i.e. ‘Frexit’. Although most French voters remain in favor of EU membership and the Euro her very elevation to the presidency could have a domino effect according to Professor Matthew J. Goodwin, a fellow at London’s think tank, Chatham House: “A major run on the euro, and capital flight spreading across the continent, would destabilize the currency union as markets began to anticipate its dissolution.”
On the other hand, the horrors of a Trump presidency and Russia’s attempts to undermine the stability of a continent, may have – as in Holland lately – a negative “Trump effect”, with the jingoistic Trump as the bogey. If the opinion polls are to be believed, Le Pen may come out on top in the first round, but in the second-round runoff, she would most likely lose because of the “Republican Front” – an unwritten law in French politics whereby the mainstream political parties shun the National Front and congregate around a common candidate.
However, the strategists of the National Front are hoping that this time this maxim of French politics breaks down. They expect the pollsters to be proved wrong (as in America) — by winning the first round in April, and then knocking out her leading rival, the upstart centrist Emmanuel Macron, in the second round a month later in May. Whereas Le Pen champions the cause of the common workers, the ‘sufferers’ of ‘savage globalization’, Macron is painted as representing its very interests. The 39-year-old Macron is seen as the ideal opponent, since he is everything that the populists/alt-nationalists abhor — a former investment banker for Rothschild and a liberal elite technocrat, incapable of understanding French workers. Le Pen’s strategy consists in sweeping up protest votes, gain a plurality and eliminate lesser rivals in Round 1. Then she will move in for the kill in the head-to-head contest in Round 2, relentlessly concentrating on Macron’s privileged background and his close ties to the departing president Francois Hollande, who has historically low approval ratings.
Trump Stumbles over Health Care Law
Last Friday US President Donald Trump fell flat on his face in his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. He now faces the biggest blow to his young presidency at the hands of rebel Republicans. After only two months into his term, his administration was forced to withdraw a controversial health care bill, moments before a vote, leaving his campaign pledge to dismantle his predecessors health care reforms unfulfilled. The president met with the speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan earlier in the day, then spoke with him by telephone when it was clear the Republican party did not have the votes to get its plan across the finish line. Ryan said: “I told him (Trump) that the best thing to do is to pull this bill and he agreed with that decision.” Trump immediately blamed Democrats for not giving “a single vote” for his plan. Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, on the other hand, conceded the Republican “failure”. I will not sugar coat this. This is a disappointing day for us.”
The Trump-backed plan, intended to expand free-market competition in the insurance industry and lower the cost of premiums for most Americans, would also have axed public assistance to people who have no health coverage through their employer. Some 14 million people would have lost their coverage starting next year, according to congressional forecasts. Basic health benefits covered under Obamacare, including maternity support and emergency room visits, would no longer have been considered essential and mandatory for insurers to support. Under Obamacare, there are currently 28 million Americans under 65 without health insurance, under the Trump plan this would shoot up to 52 million!
Trump’s crippling thrashing showcased the limits of Trump’s political power to deliver on a challenging legislative agenda despite Republican control of both houses of Congress. His administration has already been shaken up by a string of damaging reversals and controversies. He must now carefully consider how to move forward in the face of an unmanageable Congress. The bill’s defeat marked a second major policy setback for the arrogant new president, who has seen his attempt to restrict travel from Muslim-majority countries twice blocked by the courts. In the face of a chastening experience, Trump has projected himself as even more aggressive, branding Democrats as the main “losers” of the failed repeal attempt. John Pitney, professor of American politics, opined: “Trump will have a very hard time dealing with these divides because he does not understand them.” Thus, his other agendas of a major overhaul of the tax system and a bill to upgrade infrastructure like roads and bridges face an uphill task.
RPP Statute: Anti-Constitutional or Anti-National ?
By Prabasi Nepali