20 - 26 September 2013 #674

DÉJÀ VU

The more things change, the more they remain the same

*Not even if someone wanted to deliberately sabotage the country would they be as successful as the Seven Minus One party alliance running this country. We have given them credit where it is due in this space. We have tried to look at the glass as half full and tried to convince ourselves (and you) that we should cut the politicians some slack. After all, they have brought us this far since April 2006.

Yes, it has taken longer than it should. Yes, our rulers have behaved as if there is no tomorrow. But the country is now finally coming to the grand finale of this messy transition. What has happened in this country is an extraordinary makeover of our state structure with relatively little violence. The reason it is taking longer than expected is also because of the conspiracies of status quoists and those extremists who still haven’t given up their futile dream of a communist utopia.

But the main reason for the current instability is because of the individual short-sightedness of our political leaders and their collective fecklessness. They have achieved what we all thought was impossible: to fritter away the gains of the pro-democracy uprising of April 2006, let the people down once again and be a total failure in governance. Compared to this, at least where it concerns service delivery, the dictatorial monarchy is beginning to look like the golden years. It takes breath-taking incompetence and a complete lack of accountability to succeed in being so unsuccessful.

The breakdown of law and order is so complete that a paramilitary police force armed with automatic weapons cannot open a major highway artery when it is blocked by a couple of tyre-burning hooligans because one of them was arrested for robbery.

The people’s disgust at the crippling shortages of fuel, power and water is now turning into outrage. Yet, even at a time of deep crisis like this all our rulers can do is sling mud at each other, blame everyone but themselves and warn of dark conspiracies afoot. The public’s opinion of politicians in Kathmandu is mud. They have stopped expecting any statesmanship from this bunch, and are getting on with their lives despite unprecedented hardships.

It is precisely because the people now have a chance to throw out this class of failed politicians that they are so scared of elections. Time to give power (both political and electric) back to the people.*

The above lines were not written this week. They are reprinted verbatim here from an editorial in Nepali Times (#388) three months before the last election for a Constituent Assembly that was postponed thrice before being finally held in May 2008.

It is a sign of the times that not much has changed in that time. The same politicians are tackling the same issues, there is the same ambivalence about facing the people, the same failure of governance, and we are electing the same number of members with the same procedures. There are very few indicators to make us hopeful that things will be any different in 2013 compared to 2008.

Still, this is the least damaging of all options. No one who believes in democracy can be against elections. We just have to ensure that it is peaceful, independent, and fair. People must be allowed to vote freely and fearlessly. Any party that uses intimidation, threats or cheats has to be dealt with swiftly and forcefully, unlike in 2008.

The foremost challenge is to make sure the CPN-M leadership and cadre do not obstruct polling even if they don’t take part. If they resort to violence and sabotage, the full force of the state must come down upon them.

In November, the people will send a message by electing the candidates they deem most likely to serve the country and people with integrity and efficiency. As we said in this space five years ago: the leaders have messed things up, it’s time to hand power back to the people.

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