Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Election dates


A dinner in Pokhara between His Majesty and security chiefs has decided to announce dates for general elections during the king's new year address to the nation on 14 April. His Majesty appears to be keen on doing this precisely because he is sure the parties will boycott it. In his last new year's address, His Majesty had announced that general elections would be held within 2063 BS. Sources say the strategy is to organise elections in which friendly candidates would win and use the parliamentary majority to bring changes in the constitution. A party boycott would facilitate this but if it suddenly looks like the parties may take part this election may also be postponed citing security reasons. This strategy has two advantages for the palace: a) a friendly parliament can be put in place and b) the international community can be told we have democracy and even a parliament.

This is already happening, a briefing for diplomats at the Finance Ministry this week had precisely that message. "We held civil polls, now we will have general elections," state minister Roop Jyoti told diplomats, "every country has its own model of democracy, this is our model." He also told ambassadors that the human rights situation wasn't as bad as portrayed and they should resume aid otherwise even what remains of democracy may be in jeopardy. It is clear that general elections would be even more of a charade than the municipal polls and there will be even less turnout because the Maoists control the countryside and the parties dominate the urban areas.

Meanwhile, the resumption of talks between the Maoists and the political parties in New Delhi indicates that there may be a new strategy afoot. If the political parties agree to a more aggressive protest program, the Maoists may be convinced to withdraw their threat of a blockade from next week and indefinite shutdown in April. A taskforce of the political parties in Kathmandu may be getting ready in tandem with New Delhi talks to announce gherao programs in the capital and push a public campaign not to pay taxes so the regime will feel the pinch. In this case, the Maoists may suspend their activities in the towns and limit their presence to the villages.

The audience with His Majesty in Pokhara this time didn't go according to previous experience. Most of those who were given audiences had 10-15 minutes to answer a few questions and the king made it a point not to give anything away about what his plans were. So the questions weren't 'What do you think about restoration of parliament' or 'Do you think it makes sense to have general elections?'. Instead the questions were general and were along the lines of 'What is your opinion on the present situation?' Even the meeting with Speaker Tara Nath Ranabhat was like one between teacher and student. The king would give a subject (12-point agreement, the supreme sourt decision, the economic situation) and the speaker would reply as if they were answers to essay questions. Even so, Ranabhat said later he found His Majesty well aware that thing could not go on as they are.

Veteran politician and supporter of active monarchy, Biswabandhu Thapa came out disillusioned with his audience with His Majesty. Thapa says he spoke his mind about why he thought February First was a blunder and why His Majesty should take a softer line and engage with the parties. The king then abruptly said "OK, we'll be in touch" and concluded the meeting. But the senior leader sensed the king didn't like what he heard and asked, "You Majesty did you bring me all the way from Kathmandu just for this?" And the king replied again: "OK, if necessary, we'll be in touch."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)