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The next step

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
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Nepalis were disillusioned with the candidates on offer, not with democracy. That is the main take-home for the political parties.

It was an election that had to happen and it did. No one said it was going to be perfect, no one expected it to be completely free of violence and intimidation, but it was the process that was more important than the actual exercise.

Elections in a democracy should never be just for the sake of elections, this one was. It was an emergency bypass to get the country’s failing heart pumping again. Nepalis let their apathy and disillusionment be known through opinion surveys and vox pops in the previous months. But as it turns out, they were never apathetic about elections. The need to get the country’s derailed politics back on track was greater than the need to ensure a ‘normal’ election without irregularities.

Wednesday’s vote showed an unprecedented historic turnout, once more proving many doomsday pundits wrong. The biggest defeat was suffered by the Dash Maoists, whose cadres till the morning of elections were on a terrorism spree. In their strongholds in Rolpa, there wasn’t much voting.

Now begins the long wait for the final results that, if the 2008 exercise was anything to go by, could take a week. The delay is because of the sheer number of political parties in the fray (130 at last count) which meant the Election Commission could not deploy electronic voting machines this time either. The EC must be commended for doing its job reasonably well at a time of great internal and external pressures. Despite the fiasco over Voter ID cards and some political parties pretending the code of conduct didn’t exist, one must hand it to the EC for having the logistics sorted out despite last-minute uncertainties.

LONG LINE: Women await their turn to vote at Paknajol, Kathmandu-7. (MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA)
LONG LINE: Women await their turn to vote at Paknajol, Kathmandu-7. (MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA)

We won’t know for some time who the winners will be, but in a sense, all the political parties are losers. This election was needed because of their collective failure to write a constitution and agree on powers-sharing over the past five years. But by far the biggest loser is the CPN-M for playing an unrepentant spoiler, for offering no alternatives, and for the terrorist arson and bombings it unleashed on innocent Nepalis. Mohan Baidya is now not just politically, but also morally bankrupt.

There will be a lot of lessons to be learnt from this election. The foremost being that we should never again put the country through expensive elections just to cover up for the gross irresponsibility and failure of the political forces. The people have given the political parties one more chance to prove themselves, let them not squander it again.

The Election Commission should not be so beholden to the political parties, or so weak that it can be blackmailed on the conduct and rules. The EC did try six months ago to set a threshold for CA membership, parties below a cutoff percentage of votes would not be allowed. But faced with the threat of a boycott by smaller parties, it buckled.

As the results become clear, a new CA will convene and that is where the next challenge lies: to ensure that we don’t get bogged down for four years like we did last time. The political parties and the CA collectively would do well to exercise some humility about their mandate. Getting the most number of seats in the CA doesn’t mean the winner takes all. The 12.2 million eligible voters make up slightly more than one-third of the country’ 28 million population and with a 70 per cent turnout it means the CA represents the votes of nearly half of Nepalis of voting age.

The other half either didn’t, or couldn’t, vote. Also completely unrepresented are the more than four million Nepalis living and working abroad, since there is no provision for absentee voting. This cohort is nearly 15 per cent of the population, is about half of the country’s population of men between 20-40. Not giving them a chance to vote is a huge blank in the voter list. Absentee balloting must be a must in next elections.

On the longer-term, the next government must start working towards electoral reform, since campaign financing lies at the root of political corruption as leaders return favours and divide up the spoils with businesses when they get to office.

The key question, however, will be will the CA have the legitimacy and the commitment to write such an important document as the constitution to determine the future of Nepal? For now the answer will have to be: yes, because there is no other alternative.

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2 Responses to “The next step”

  1. Trigat on Says:

    Maoist and Madhesi’s disdain beyond 2013 CA election

    Sad to see the trench of corruption created by Nepali Congress, UML and the bureaucracy was so heartening to Nepalese people that the rise of Maoist was appreciated somehow and was witnessed by the 2008 election, which favored Maoist by and large. Although Maoist got the opportunity, they proved that they were not there to fill the trench created by NC, UML and bureaucracy, rather they increased the size and depth of that trench. That was predictable because Maoist’s foundation is not really morally sound and ideologically stable. Lots of ethical issues, as most of the reliable workers are not really the intellectuals rather their attributes may strongly relate to criminals. Eventually, Nepalese people realized they are rather worse than NC and UML, and opted to put them down, as witnessed in ongoing vote count as of today (23/11/2013). During Maoist reign, poverty, crimes, corruption, strike, unemployment, health issues and other psychosocial and peace-related issues felt to be unfolding, although was created by NC and UML post 1990’s referendum. Maoist had opportunities to negotiate their agenda with Madhesi Front with mutual negotiation, but they seemed to be hard-headed after 2008 election. Initial failure of Maoist and Madhesi deals offered NC and UML opportunities to be proactive, while these frontiers were just thoughtful of dilly-dally of CA term and go for the election, with a hope that if Maoist is sluggish certainly that will benefit to them. The last CA term actually did nothing other than making a few faceless people in high recruitment as was Sujata Koirala DPM. Maoist leadership prolonged last CA term for a long period without doing anything, which increased public’s original grievances by several folds, and made people to realize the previous wounds rather less painful, resulting to go for NC and UML presently. Only the best option for Maoist was to make a long lasting deal was with Madhesi parties. This pact would have fulfilled many aspirations of the public. On the other hand, Madhesi parties slides from road to trail because NC, UML and Maoist all were insincere and unwilling to address their agenda. Maoist should have broken this trend by using the given opportunity. Perhaps, this would have led UML and NC to fall far behind. All communists would have dissolved in Maoist. They cited better expectations for the people, but they had no clear strategies. This reflects their poor vision, mission and goal. For Madhesi parties, they were obliged to work with any or all – NC, UML and Maoist. All three seem to have same stance towards Madhesi, which led Madhesi to slide from the party’s standards and look for whatever comes to their way. For instance, most of the Madhesi leaders had opportunity to hold ministerial positions in anyone’s leadership whether it was Maoist or NC or UML. The downside of this election may be that if UML and NC do not treat their winners from Madhesh, perhaps their potential re-exit may lead to merge with Madhesi parties. If this happens, definitely Madhesi front will be stronger, and may be prolonged chaos, especially for Madhav Nepal, Sushil Koirala, Prakash Koirala and Puspa Kamal Dahal to reach the winning line, as they seemed to be hopeful from Terai region, and their parties will not be bared.


  2. subash thebe on Says:

    “We won’t know for some time who the winners will be, but in a sense, all the political parties are losers.” Very well said, Sir !

    And if the political parties are losers I wonder what is to become of poor us who has once again elected the same shameful faces again. But having said that, we didn’t have choice, did we ?

    Next stop: CA for all ! Nothing More Nothing Less !


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