The government has finally announced dates for the CA polls (19 November). This has raised hopes of Nepal getting a new elected body. Not yet time to celebrate hoping that Nepal will have a government that is accountable to people and its acts transparent. Similarly, there will not be a competition among political parties based on issues and ideologies in the upcoming CA polls. The only reason to be happy about this announcement si that this election, if it happens, may remove the current government of bureaucrats.
2013 elections are going to be held in the same circumstances in which 2008 CA elections were held. Almost same faces, mainly same political parties and more or less same agendas. Some politicians have changed their parties but the ideological division that existed in 2008 remains unchanged.
Confrontation (reality) vs Consensus (Illusion)
The problem is politicians are divided not on the basis of ideology or philosophy rather on the basis of their personal interest and benefit. There is wide rift between communists and non-communist forces. The division, a the moment, is in its worst level. There is division within communist forces and also within non-communist forces too. This deep division, almost to the level of hatred, may create obstacles in the election process. It will certainly be a stumbling block in the constitution writing process as it was before.
If the division or rift was based on ideology, philosophy, issues and agendas, forging consensus would have been less difficult. There can be no solution to personal egos, petty interests and simple hunger for power. People know that our politicians are corrupt and incompetent and hell bent on amassing cash and misusing public resources. That has to stop.
Free, Fair and Peaceful Election
…where the prospect of ill-gotten gain is an important motive for the pursuit of office, the democratic process becomes a mere power struggle rather than a contest over policies. The premium on political power becomes so great that competing forces will do anything to win. This threatens the very essence of the democratic process–free, fair, and peaceful elections.
(Three Paradoxes of Democracy by Prof Larry Diamond)
In a country like Nepal where, according to Central Bureau of Statistic, Overall literacy rate (for population aged 5 years and above) has increased from 54.1 percent in 2001 to 65.9 in 2011, free, fair and peaceful election is virtually impossible.
Every political party love to repeat these words and show fake commitment but in fact they indulge in various types of electoral frauds.
Be it intimidation or vote buying or spreading misinformation and misleading or confusing people or tampering ballot papers or using proxy votes and destructing or invalidating authentic votes. A typical election in Nepal sees all these unfortunate elements.
A party capturing a voting booth and letting its cadres caste votes on behalf of the real voters to its election symbol is a regular feature. The question is: will this government be able to control such election fraud? Electoral security is a major challenge that this government faces.
In an interview with Setopati.com, Mohan Baidhya hinted that his party will not obstruct the election process but boycott it. But the CPN-Maoist, popularly known as the Dash Maoist, along with 41 fringe parties, imposed a an effective general strike on Sunday showing their rage in full throttle.
Though in small numbers in streets, strike enforcers were able to create fear and an atmosphere of intimidation even in Kathmandu valley. With the experience of running a brutal civil war behind, Baidhya and his comrades know how to create psychological pressure among general public. Even a small incident of violence may discourage voters to cast their vote. That is because leaders haven’t given people any incentive to people go to voting booth by putting their personal safety at risk.
I think, the incumbent government will also a tough face challenge from the Dash Maoist. Demands of other fringe parties can be managed but depends on how this government handles the issue.
Tension in Tarai
Tension in Tarai region is in hibernation at the moment. After dissolution of the CA, many underground groups shunned violence. But they may resume their violent activities to create pressure on government as election date approaches. The performance of regional parties who consider themselves the sole representative of Madhesi interests (though the number of votes parties got in 2008 election tells a different story) in past five years has created deep disappointment in Madhesi public. The campaign will be dominated by regional and ethnic slogans which will widen the ethnic gap.
HLPM vs Interim Election Govt
There is invisible but obvious tension between the Chief Justice-led Interim Electoral Government and the High Level Political Mechanism (comprising three big parties and an alliance of Madhes based regional parties) that supervises the government. The government seems to implement decisions of HLP Committee if it suits its interest. The government becomes reluctant to implement decisions of HLPC that are against its wishes. This confusion of who is the real boss and who should pull triggers is another obstacle to holding a free and credible election. Tussle between former bureaucrats and politicians may caste shadow over elections.
Some administrative tasks such as updating voters’ list, educating voters, choosing poll centers and appointing election support staffs by Election Commission are no small challenges as they invite criticism from competing political parties. Appointments will especially be problematic due to pressure from competing parties to recruit their own cadres.
In the End
Present Chief Justice-led government was formed and stands on a rather weak ground. It doesn’t have moral authority as it has breached the norms of separation of power. It is not very fair to expect very effective performance from this government. On the other hand, none of the political parties are fair enough to conduct a free, fair and peaceful election. In the past, Nepali Congress, CPN (UML) and UPCN Maoist have all captured booths- just that Maoists did it in a more effective manner in 2008 elections. Election monitoring organizations are present mainly on urban areas and, the problem is, they too are not beyond political influence. So the situation is bleak. But then we have no choice but to walk in the path to elections.