Tag Archives: elections

Why do you need Ushaft’s election updates for Nepal?

Ushaft says:

“I have repeated many times that the English language media circuit in Nepal is an echo chamber, consisting of a very narrow group of privileged and detached people who always agree with each other, often to imply that the Maoist war was the greatest achievement in the history of Nepal. As it is, relying on most of Nepal’s English language pundits can end up in very embarrassing situations for yourself. As was evident in one instance from last week, a very vocal “Nepal expert” English language writer was found criticizing a New York Times article because, according to her, the article was making fun of the Maoists in Nepal by calling them “Dashists” and “Cashists.” In fact, the Nepali language press and the streets of Nepal have long been using these terms coined by the Maoists themselves. In the past, the Maoists have made public remarks like calling the third largest party “an eunuch party,” and the echo chamber didn’t even produce as much as a whisper for this insult (or joke for them) that would be unacceptable in most of the civilized countries.”

“Take another example. We had an election for the constituency assembly in 2008 too. The run up to that election was full of violence, intimidation and countless other incidents that could have influenced the result in the end. However, election observers and foreign press, watching elections in the polling centers near the highways, and from the eyes of Nepal’s English language commentators, were unaware of all that was going around. In the end, a very violent polling campaign was termed as completely free and fair, even before polling had closed at all centers.

“Nepal’s politics and society is much complex than it seems. The English language press can make you believe in a very simplistic picture of good guys vs bad guys (with Nepal’s radical forces always being their good guys), but you will be left very ill informed with sources like these, which can be both ignorant about the issues and manipulative and driven by their vested interests at the same time. It is no surprise that many commentators, writers and columnists do not provide full disclosure in Nepal, often hiding their affiliations with interest groups, which however, are of common knowledge to many others inside Nepal.”

We agree with Ushaft. We will reblog him as soon as he comes up with informed analysis on the site.

Ushaft's Blog

More info (22nd Nov): Followups to this blog post can be seen here: How was the polling day? and Citizens’ Statement about Maoists’ walkout from vote counting. After polling closed across Nepal, I have made some revisions about my prediction made in the initial posts of this series. The results that are coming out right now confirm the general mood in Nepal I had described in one another post and the vested interests and ignorance of the echo-chamber.


Starting today, I’ll cover some of the discussion from the Nepali social media circle related to the upcoming election. Because of the discussions being in Nepali, many outside observers will miss the real pulse of Nepal as we draw very close to the election. The aim of this blog-series is to narrow this gap and let everybody get a feel of how it is like here at present. Many such reports…

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By a disgruntled graffiti artist?

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)

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Nepal Needs More Transparency in Political Finance

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

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.

Why Disclose?

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 siromani@blog.com.np)

Will Former Insurgent Maoist Lead Nepal?

By Conflict Study Center

Nepal is again a hot topic because of the former insurgent Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or CPN (M)’s unexpected victory in the CA elections. International communities that followed the Big House Media (BHM) propaganda that the Maoists would be lost have been astounded. The suspended king Gyanendra, who used to pay visits to the generals for dinners with smiling face, is now quivering. Nepali Congress (NC), ruling for almost 18-years after popular movement I 1990, has become a fish out of water, although NC demanded CA polls 60-year back. Madhav Nepal, who regarded himself strong founder of the CPN (UML), has resigned from the post of General Secretary on the moral background of party’s defeat and it has been approved, but is trying his best to win heart and mind of UML leaders and cadres to be the President of the party soon. The 97,000 NGO activists, mostly affiliated to UML and NC, who joined the election observation to tag the Maoists’ for rigging the CA polls have been flabbergasted. The security mechanism, which is incapable to assess the defeat of its Minister of Home, is amazed. The Army Chief, who used to send his Generals to Prachanda for informal meetings and performed tug-of-war with the Maoists from afar, has become hushed like a snake in front of a mongoose. About 1,000 strong International Observer Team, which assessed that Maoists would face a defeat prior to the polls, now is in a quandary. It seemed a consensus amongst all the mainstream political parties during the casting and counting of votes. However, as the results were unanticipated, they now are seeking to clamor that YCL (Young Communist League) – fusion of military and political force of the Maoists had manipulated the votes. Continue reading Will Former Insurgent Maoist Lead Nepal?

Nepali Congress Manifesto: Executive Prime Minister, Ceremonial President, Parliamentary Supremacy

Republican Nepali Congress Thinks An Autocratic Person Born In A Feudal Family Can’t Be The Symbol Of National Unity In Nepal: “An inclusive and constitutional federal democracy will be the symbol of national unity, not a person or a position. Nepal would enter into a new era of national unity by electing the head of state through people’s representatives.”-Nepali Congress Manifesto

The Nepali Congress (NC), Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Party that leads the ruling seven-party alliance, publicised its manifesto for the April 10 Constituent Assembly polls today proposing a prime ministerial system of governance in which the Prime Minister will have the executive powers while the President will be the ceremonial Head of State. The Head of State will be elected by the members of the central and federal parliaments. The manifesto has also emphasized parliament’s supremacy; the council of ministers will be fully accountable to the parliament.

The manifesto has proposed a three-tier- central, state and local – governance structure suggesting an integrated and sovereign federal republican Nepal. It has proposed an end to the existing unitary and centralized system of governance to go for autonomous federal states based on national integrity, geography, population, natural resources, economic viability, among others. The manifesto does not mention the number of such states to be formed. That will be decided by the Constituent Assembly on the basis of the report of the Recommendation Commission for Restructuring the State, the manifesto states.

Related Blog: Communist Manifestos: Maoist Vs UML (United Marxist Leninist)

The manifesto has also proposed a central government and autonomous regional governments of different federal states. Similarly, there will be a bicameral parliament at the centre and a unicameral parliament in each federal state. Proposals to uplift the economic standard and utilization of water resources are also mentioned in the manifesto. NC has also proposed to make the Nepal Army inclusive and professional and to restructure the civil service and Nepal Police under a federal system.