While the CPN-Maoist continues to engage in talks with the government and the alliance of parties that dictate the government, they have already started publicity campaign to boycott the elections scheduled for 19th November. We present here photos and this update:
KATHMANDU, AUG 13 – The dialogue held between the government and the poll-opposing 33-party alliance ended inconclusively here in the Capital on Tuesday. The meeting ended without forging any agreement with the agitating political parties, including the CPN-Maoist, after the alliance proposed the government to defer the Constituent Assembly polls slated for November 19.
This was the first official meeting between the government and the 33-party alliance which has been opposing the CA polls. During the meeting held at Hotel Himalaya in Lalitpur today, the 33-party alliance forwarded an 18-point charter of demands including the abrogation of 25-point presidential decree issued on March 14, dismissal of the current Khil Raj Regmi-led government and postponement of the CA polls slated for November 19.
Home Minister Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Minister for Information and Communications Madhav Prasad Poudel and Health Minister Bidhyadhar Mallik represented the government side at the meeting.
Likewise, CPN-Maoist leaders Dev Gurung, Hari Bhakta Kandel, and Chairman of the Nepal Communist Party-Revolutionary Mani Thapa, among other leaders, represented the agitating 33-party alliance . CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya was, however, not present at the meeting.
The alliance has also proposed to scrap the ongoing election preparations and start a new process of government formation and election process. “They proposed to start afresh by forging consensus on a party-led government and a new election process,” said government spokesperson Madhav Poudel. “We told them that the government is ready to hold talks on every other issue expect the deferral of slated CA polls,” he added.
Minister Poudel said that the government was not in favour of deferring the November 19 CA polls. He added that the next round of talks with the 33-party alliance will take place in a day or two. (source: ekantipur)
By Siromani Dhungana
Political parties in Nepal should recognize the value of transparency in the political process and the importance of providing citizens with information on funds raised and spent in the election to influence their votes.
It is clear that money counts in elections where there are needy voters and greedy politicians. Politicians have always exploited vulnerability of poor voters. They have bribed poor people and bought votes in this country. The forms of bribery varies from cash to goods or favor and a few glasses of raksi.
Rich leaders in a poor country do not hesitate to spend billions during the election time. Most of the leaders mobilize goons just to create psychological threat to the voters and supporters of opposition parties. Bribery is a form of intimidation but more straight mediums are always used in all elections.
Another usual feature of Nepali elections is no leader or candidate, however much they spend in campaigns (which includes bribery), comes up clean with their account details.
A Washington-based independent organization International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES)- which is already in Nepal as poll dates have been announced, in a book entitled “Handbook on Campaign Finance in Tunisia: Issues and Monitoring” says:
“Political parties and electoral contestants need money to campaign and make their platforms known to the electorate. Political finance is all the more important in a context of democratic transition given the emergence of new political parties not always known by the electorate. Financing is necessary for parties to strive and play their role in a democratic society.”
I think it is not fair to keep political money hidden from the public eye. Nepali political parties spend millions without revealing the source of their funding and consequently, voters never learn of the origins of the money used in financing election activities including the heavy advertising done during the campaign. This is less than ideal for an electoral system in a country that has its leaders tirelessly talking about democracy not fully institutionalized.
It is high time that the need for public disclosure of political finances be demanded. Disclosure helps prevent financial abuse during election and is necessary to promote healthy political competition.
We need a body akin to what was set up in the U.S. under the Federal Election Campaign Act 1974. An agency called the Federal Election Commission supervises all financial transactions by political bodies that have solicited or spent money to support or defeat federal candidates. The organization verifies all reports presented and discloses the same to the public and the media. The Election Commission in Nepal should be empowered to do exactly the same.
Political parties, on the other hand, should be ready for the public audit of their income and expenditure. In a book ‘Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns’ published by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Karl-Heinz Nassmacher writes:
Most democracies have provided their controlling agency with the powers to sanction in one way or another financial misconduct by a party, candidate or other person or organization subject to the regulation.
In my own opinion, democratic system should be more transparent than any other political system and political parties should pledge to introduce a law to ban anonymous donations in democracy. In the context of Nepal, all political parties should formulate a common minimum understanding and issue the white paper regarding public disclosure of income and expenditure during election time for the time being.
Challenges of Undisclosed Contributions
An undisclosed contribution from any party is not a good sign for democracy. It is believed that contributors want returns from concerned political parties in the long run. But contributors themselves wanting anonymity would not deign well either as they will tend to take advantage of their political affiliation at the expense of ordinary people.
Past experience shows that undisclosed contributions can fuel ‘policy corruption’. The government in a country like Nepal compensates its financial contributors while introducing the budget. Tax exemption or special treatment to particular business enterprises can be regarded with suspicion as the number of politically active tax-exempt groups grows.
Undisclosed contribution often raises questions as to whether political parties benefit from influence peddling, organized crime or drug trafficking.
Terrorized Business Community?
Principally, a major share of funding should come from voluntary contributions but that is not happening in Nepal. Forceful donation drives by political parties has become a common phenomenon and has terrorized the business community. Almost all political parties tend to amass cash by forceful measures.
Some businessmen have even been revealing in public that all revenue frauds committed by them is a result of heavy donation that they have to give to political parties. According to them, they face problems in adjusting donation money in the balance sheet during the auditing process.
Transparency in donation would help boost the morale of the business community that has faced problems in adjusting their accounts because they were forced to donate with such conditions that they could not keep any record of the money dispensed. Political parties should now ensure that the election is not an event meant for terrorizing the business community.
Even Businessmen aren’t so clean
The business fraternity, however, is not clean of controversy. They also tend to appease political parties to hide their malpractices in business. The integrity of Nepal’s private sector is not very high. Multi-billion Value Added Tax (VAT) scandals, adulteration in food products and other unethical business practices have been growing in the country and successive governments have failed to take action against even a single corporate house. The private sector is guilty of its own crimes, and of being protected by the political leadership, which it cannot deny. Renowned faces from the business community entered the last CA representing different political parties which clearly showed that they want political protection and affiliation to go ahead in their business undisturbed.
A Silver Lining
In a commendable move, the Nepali Congress has recently promised that it is ready to reveal its sources of funds for the coming elections. The party has announced its commitment to accept donations through cheque as well.
Transparency is an essential principle of free and competitive markets; it is equally important in a system of free and competitive elections. Public disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures is a core prerequisite of any effective system of electoral campaigns, and its value is yet to be acknowledged by the Congress and the courts.
The announcement may have provided relief to the business community. It is a common practice around the world that political parties rely on donations to build and sustain themselves, to train party cadres and to fight in the elections. Equally important is the fact that the sources of its funding undeniably influence the behavior of the party if it comes to power. The issue thus has a direct impact on democratic rights.
In the End
The recent announcement of the Nepali Congress party has provided strong ground for the business community to bring the donation issue to the public domain. Other political parties should be ready to do the same. As public institutions, political parties should be proactive to disclose their information and arrange for regular briefings using various information demystification channels.
Channeling money through bank accounts can also improve the identification of contributors which is important for the monitoring of limits as well as the disclosure of sources.
Nepal needs to set up a mechanism that can ensure accountability on the source and utilization of party funds. The present opportunity and its timing can be used to promise this much-needed change since the country is ready to go for new a CA election.
(Siromani is the Editor of UWB. He tweets @siromanid and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Despite all the chaos and apparent differences of positions/opinions/ideologies of political parties, they have made significant progress in drafting a new constitution. If one looks at the debates that have occurred in the CA over the past year and a half, it is clear that although differences between parties have persisted, there have also been major attempts to discuss issues and attempts to find adequate methods to address them.
There is a tendency in Nepali society that views the proceedings in the Constituent Assembly (CA) with great negativity and foreboding. The differences between the parties on important issues regarding the constitution go so deep, this line of analysis goes, that finding compromise is impossible. Those who believe this never expected the CA process to move as far as it has: to the stage where all 11 thematic committees have submitted their concept papers, they have been discussed and the next task is for the Constitutional Committee (CC) to write a complete draft of the constitution in the next month. Even now, the nay-sayers continue to disparage the process, emphasising the incomplete nature of the concept papers and the major differences between parties that yet remain to be resolved.
This reading is based on the premise that there is broadly one main fault line in the CA: between the Maoists and the ethnic/regional parties on the one side and the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML on the other. This chasm between the two sides is so deep, it is thought, that bridging it is impossible. This is, however, a misreading of the situation. If one looks at the debates that have occurred in the CA over the past year and a half, it is clear that although differences between parties have persisted, there have also been major attempts to discuss issues and attempts to find adequate methods to address them. In many of these cases, in fact, there is agreement on the nature of the problems of Nepali state and society. The differences between parties are only regarding how to resolve them. Continue reading Constituent Assembly Has Made Substantial Progress in Constitution Writing
By Prof. Suryabahadur Singh*
The experimentation of various types of Constitutions was carried out in Nepal. The country had to experience six more Constitutions until elections to Constituent Assembly, 2065 (2008) were held. It had been observed that, these procedural delay jeopardized the growth of democratic system to a greater extent and derail overall national development in the absence of stable constitution of Nepal.
First Constituent Assembly of Nepal
The King Mahendra, while promulgating ‘the Interim Government of Nepal Act, 2007 (1951), had emphasized upon, framing the Constitution by duly elected Constituent Assembly. During this stage, the King had desired to have Constitution drafted through a duly elected Constituent Assembly. At that time, the formation of first Constitutional Assembly was dithered due to political turmoil, lack of time, urgent need for constitution and unstable administration. This lags the constitutional development of Nepal in search of suitable constitutional model.
Now (23:32), K B Gurung convenes another meeting of the CA tomorrow at 11 AM. The first meeting is over.
Now (23:25), K B Gurung declares the proposal passed. He also tables a proposal to direct the government to remove the former king and his secretariat withing 15 days. This proposal is passed by the majority of voice vote.
Now (23:23), The result. Total present 564. For YES 560. For NO 4.
Now (23:20), Prakash Chandra Lohani of RPP is speaking. Republic is not the destination, it is the means. Destination is the preserving of the national integrity, sovereignty, rejection of any type of dictatorship, democratic norms, liberating Nepalis from poverty.
Now (23:18), Chitra Bahadur KC is speaking. He says his party Rastriya Janamorcha differs with the federal provision that is stated in the proposal.
Now (23:15), KB Gurung says the time is finished. Some members hoot.
Now (23:10), Chandra Bdr Gurung of RPP Nepal, the same man who started raising objections from the beginning, is now speaking after the permission from KB Gurung. He says the country has entered into the gate of change. The beauty of democracy is that it lets people put note of dissent. RPP Nepal want to register a note of dissent, he says. He says our view will be ineffective as the remote control culture is being propagated instead of listening to one’s own voice. He is also praising the monarchy saying it defended Nepali nationalism.
Now (23:10), KB Gurung, the chair of the Assembly, is declaring the result. IT’S FOR YES. FOR NO.
Now (23:09), no one is seen trying to correct their vote. KB Gurung orders to open the gates. KB Gurung gives two minutes time to Prateebha Rana to put her views. She is from RPP. Her daughter Arjoo Rana Deuba is a member of CA from Nepali Congress. Prateebha says she wants to say something regarding Nepal being declared the secularism.
Now (23:06), KB Gurung gives three minutes to those who want to correct their votes. It seems no one is willing to correct.
Now (22:48), Sagarmatha TV is showing a footage in which UML member of the CA Kamala Sharma Poudel is trying to attack NC member Purna Bahadur Khadka with her sandal. Ram Chandra Poudel and others are seen trying to prevent her from attacking. Kamala is the wife of the slain UML candidate of Surkhet Rishi Prasad Sharma. Kamala thinks, the channel says, Purna Bahadur Khadka is behind the killing just days before the voting in April 10. UML put forward the candidacy of Kamala at the place of her killed husband and she won the election. Now TVs are showing senior leaders of NC and UML talking about the issue. Jhalanath Khanal, UML general secretary, is seen talking with NC leaders. Other members are curiously looking.
Now (22:45), the PM, who is about 84-year-old, leaves for his official residence.
Now (22:43), the votes are being counted. It appears that there are no NO votes against the five-point proposal to declare Nepal a republic.
[Meanwhile, TV stations are reporting that the government has given tomorrow and the day after tomorrow public holidays to celebrate the declaration of republic. Five out of 26 remaining members of the CA have been nominated, reported a TV station.]
Now (22:15), Basantapur (Kathmandu Durbar Square) is decorated by the people to celebrate the declaration of republic. People there are eagerly awaiting the result of the vote.
Now (22:12), Prachanda is back to his seat after voting. He is greeting other members who are passing by from his seat.
Now (22:09), the members of the CA are now voting.
Now (22:05), almost all members are going towards the gate that is assigned for those who are FOR the proposal. Prachanda of the Maoist is leading this line, Jhalanath Khanal of the UML is just behind him. As per the constitution, only a simple majority of the 601-member CA is needed for the proposal to be passed.
Now (22:02), KB Gurung formally tables the proposal for the decision. He tells the members of CA how to vote and explains them the procedures.
Now (21:56), the belling is ringing for the voting. The bell will ring for five minutes.
Now (21:54), as KB Gurugn is explaining the voting procedure, the same RPP Nepal member raises objection saying that the parties should be given chance to have debate on the proposal. KB Gurung said he will be given such chance after the voting.
Now (21:53), the Proposal is presented for decision.
Now (21:52), Home Minister is tabling the proposal related to the implementation of the republic.
Now (21:50), Hridayesh Tripathi of Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party is raising some objections.
Now (21:48), the proposal asks the Nepalis all over the world to celebrate republic day on Jestha 15 every year.
Now (21:47), the proposal says the benifits, privileges that are given to the former king which are more than what the general Nepali citizen get will automatically be stopped.
Now (21:46), the proposal says Nepal has been turned into a federal democratic republic.
Now (21:44), Home Minister Sitaula is tabling the republican related proposal on behalf of the PM. He says the proposal is the result of the meeting of the political parties.
Now (21:42), KB Gurung presents the proposal for the CA assembly procedure. Now the voice voting, YES is loude. The same RPP N member is trying to intervene the meeting. There is no NO. The proposal is passed unanimously.
Now (21:40), KB Gurung is reading out a letter sent by the speaker of the Indian parliament Som Nath Chattarjee.
Now (21:38), the PM says its our responsibility to implement all the agreements that we reached earlier. I have already invited the Maoist to form the government.
Now (21:35), the PM says all sorts of violence must be stopped from now.
Now (21:34),, the PM says the sovereign right of people will never be compromised, it will be strengthened.
Now (21:31), The PM asks minister Ram Chandra Poudel to read the PM’s speech on behalf of him. Poudel starts reading.
Now (21:29), the PM says “we have entered in a new era” and because “we maintained mutual trust, unity and consensus” which “we must maintain in the days ahead. This is the biggest weapon to solve the problem. We have gathered here to solve the problem today. Today is the day when my dream has been fulfilled. Today is the day when the dream of the country has fulfilled.”
Now (21:26), the PM is addressing the assembly. This is an opportunity to change an era. I am happy to welcome you here on this occasion. A day comes once in an era. This day is today.
Now (21:24 ), the chairman gives permission to the Prime Minister to address the CA meeting.
Now (21:22), the assembly is observing a two minute silence for the respect of the martyrs.
(21:19 hours) The first meeting of the CA has begun. As soon as the meeting began (with the announcement of the Chair of the assembly KB Gurung, the oldest member of the assembly, a member of the assembly from RPP Nepal, a pro-king party, tried to raise objection regarding “procedural mistake”.
Update: (21:19 hours) The first meeting of the CA has begun.
Soi Dhole Soi, Ganatantra Khoi?
Thousands of jubilant people have hit the streets chanting slogans that hail Nepal as a republic country as the Constituent Assembly is about to declare Nepal a republic. People who have gathered in New Baneswor where the first meeting of the CA will convene in the International Convention Center, are flying colorful balloons, singing songs with almost every line including the word “ganatantra”, painting “Ga” [for ganatantra= republic] signs on their cheeks, “Ganatantra” on their foreheads. Hundreds are now gathering (as of now, 12:48 PM) in Tinkune where they are whistling, chanting slogans and screaming Ganatantra Jindabad [Long Love the Republic], Rajtantra Murdabad [Down With Monarchy], Gyane Chor Desh Chod [Thief Gyanendra, Leave The Country], Soi Dhole Soi, Ganatantra Khoi? [in tune with a traditional Kirat festival song]. Gyanendra, the last king of Nepal, will be given a 15-day deadline by the government to vacate the royal Narayanhitti palace after the CA formalizes the pre-CA election decision of the Interim Parliament to declare Nepal a republic. The meeting of the CA hasn’t started as yet. Political leaders are busy finalizing the technicalities of the declaration, amendments of the Interim constitution that is needed along with the declaration and provision, rights and privileges of the President and the Vice President of the republic of Nepal. Continue reading People on Streets to Welcome the Declaration of Republic
I am writing these lines on the second hour of the day (that is 28 May 2008) that is expected to be a historic. Nepal, a 240-year-old monarchy, will formally be declared a republic today by the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly. The CA will meet in New Baneshwor’s International Convention Center that has been turned into a fortress by the heavy presence of the police. (A small bomb had gone off just outside the building the day before yesterday while another blasted in another part of Kathmandu. The third was defused by the security personnel.) I am just back from the downtown Kathmandu observing the city. The road surrounding the royal Narayahitti palace where the last king of Nepal is living as of now (01:38 AM) is calm and empty. A few Nepali Army soldiers were seen patrolling on the northern side of the palace. That appeared to be the regular patrol. A few soldiers and Armed Police personnel were seen guarding the western gate of the palace. Continue reading Nepal Awaits To Be the REPUBLIC of Nepal
….because you never know the result of elections in advance!
If there is anything that is making CPN Maoist feel regrettable in the post-poll scenario that must be their pre-poll emphasis on the Proportional Representation (PR) system for the Constituent Assembly elections. On the other side of the political spectrum Nepali Congress must be feeling heavily indebted to the former rebels for Maoist’s insistence on the PR. Both of these parties were at the opposing end regarding PR: NC never fully favored it, Maoists wanted fully PR system. (Finally it was agreed in December that about 60 percent of the total CA seats would be elected through PR and about 40 percent through First Past the Post, FPTP or winner takes it all system. That meant out of total 601 seats, 240 for FPTP, 335 for PR and remaining 26 to be appointed by the PM.) Continue reading Nepali Congress, CPN Maoist and the Unexpected Results From PR and FPTP
The following is the Press Statement issued by Sean McCormack, Spokesman of the US Department of State in Washington, DC on April 14, 2008
Nepal Elections: We congratulate the people of Nepal on their historic Constituent Assembly election on April 10. Although there was considerable violence and intimidation during the pre-election period, and some instances of voting irregularities on election day, Nepali voters were able to cast their ballots peacefully in most districts. Over the next days and weeks, as complete results of these polls become known, the United States urges patience and nonviolent observance of the democratic process. We look forward to the formation of an assembly that reflects the will of the Nepali people, ready to begin the important work of framing a constitution that addresses their needs.
As of late night today while vote count continues in many constituencies around the country while some will see repolling in the next few days (out of 240 constituencies). Maoists: 110 seats; NC 32; UML 27 Plus, there is also a terrorist who got elected, thanks do democracy! Continue reading Know Your Representative: List of Elected Members of Constituent Assembly