Prospects of election continue to dominate the national discourse in Nepal but the key question is: are political parties serious about facing ballot boxes?
By Siromani Dhungana
The political arena hasn’t changed since May last year when the then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his party UCPN Maoist and their power-hungry Madhesi collaborators let the Constituent Assembly die without drafting a constitution. No political party has changed their stands on several important issues and their tones and (dual) stances remain same. Essentially, all parties have lost their credibility and it seems they are not really interested to go for a fresh mandate. In this backdrop, it is very difficult to believe that election, let alone a genuine, free and fair one, can be held anytime soon.
Chairman of the interim electoral council of ministers, Khil Raj Regmi, might have realized by now that ruling the country is entirely way more challenging than issuing the court rulings that he is used to doing. On the one hand, the government has not yet to fixed the date of CA polls. On the other, Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist cadres have continued to disrupt the work of updating voter rolls in various districts forcing the Election Commission to suspend the work altogether. The problem here is that this non-elected apolitical government can do nothing against the organized political forces like the CPN-Maoist. In an interview with the website setopati.com, Chief Election Commissioner Nilkantha Upreti has clearly hinted that the poll dates may be pushed to later this year.
Doubts over the effectiveness of the CJ-led government have already started to surface. For instance, editor of The Himalayan Times, Ajay Bhadra Khanal, tweeted, “Chairman Regmi. Fear of failure, when excessive, increases chances of failure.”
Why do we need CA again?
Political parties have decided to give another try for the Constituent Assembly (version 2) to promulgate a new constitution. But the circumstances in which the earlier CA was dissolved remain intact and problems that the parties couldn’t solve at that time (May 2012) remain unresolved.
Same politicians who failed to lead the constitution drafting process earlier are at the helm of their respective parties. Political differences between major forces haven’t decreased. In fact they have widened. How can our politicians convince us that another CA election can produce a favourable environment to write a new constitution? How can they write constitution without solving the problems that exist now? Election results may force parties to adjust their stands accordingly but that don’t guarantee a consensus.
None of them (political parties) have given satisfactory answers of the question: Why it was necessary to dissolve the CA in last May? Indeed, politicians have been trying to make CA a ‘political lab’ but it is not sure whether the tests will be successful.
Reading People’s Mind?
Politicians have betrayed people quite frequently. During the 2008 CA elections, they told that accountability would be ensured and good governance would prevail. The CPN (Maoist) [now known as UCPN (Maoist)] had even sold the dream of prosperity to the ‘proletariats’. However, those promises were never translated into action.
Rather, as many believe, corruption has continued to be unabated. So have crimes. Impunity has been rampant and rule of law has been seriously threatened. The notion of ‘might is right’ has been established in the country that has fuelled frustrations in people.
In this scenario, I think, political parties are in wait and see mood. They are trying to provide enough time to people so that they couldn’t forget all the past misdeeds of politicians. It is certain that they will not go for an election until the current CJ-led government becomes unpopular so that they can put all the blame on this government and cover their own mistakes and wrongdoings including corruptions charges.
The cadres of CPN-Maoist (popularly known as Dash Maoist) have already started to obstruct the work of updating voters roll in various parts of the country. They are trying to show their presence. And, Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai (popularly known as leaders of the Cash Maoist) cannot directly confront the Bidhya-led dash Maoist due to their past connections.
It is suspected that Baidhya-led Maoist will try to intimidate the democratic forces other than the Cash Maoist in the election and merge (wholly or a faction) with the Cash Maoist just before the election or after the election. However, it is really hard to predict their unity because some hardliner Maoist’s carders who are disappointed with UCPN (Maoist) and are now with Baidya-led Maoist party are determined to take revenge against Prachanda.
Yes, a free, fair and intimidation-free election is definitely needed. Democracy without periodical election will be nothing more than an autocracy. And, in my opinion, Nepal is no more a democratic country. For this, the big four parties (some are calling them The Four Party Syndicate) must come up with clear roadmap and vision for the country so that people get to know who is where on which issues. No confusing statements but clear views and vision so that people can decide who deserves their votes.