Nepali Times
Moving Target
Damned if you do


Despite polls announced for 22 November, the carnival atmosphere that normally accompanies elections in the Stagnating World is noticeably absent. Fears of instability, 'donation terror', and YCL abuse weigh heavily on the populace, as many worry election fever could easily turn viral. With the tarai in flames, guns everywhere, and a barely functioning government it's hard to imagine a free and fair anything taking place.

The fact that nobody understands what a 'Constitutional Assembly Election' actually means is the least of our worries, since it appears that the country faces a no-win dilemma however this turns out.

Much of the problem lies with the reality gap between truth and propaganda. While there's a chance the Maoist leadership can distinguish actuality from dogma and wishful thinking (though we've seen little evidence of this) the same cannot be said of the cadre. Any conversation with party activists reveals they are fully convinced 80 percent of the citizens back them, and that this is sure to result in a massive triumph at the polls.

In fact, all indicators point to a Maoist support level of 15 to 20 percent on a good day. This disparity between perception and reality will likely lead to trouble as the following scenarios describe:

The comrades have always employed threats and bullying to get their way and are unlikely to change tactics now. Their catchy election slogan 'Vote for Us or Die' has already been delivered personally to each house in the districts, and should the Maoists achieve a strong result through such coercion, the UN will notice. Reports by international observers exposing electoral fraud are sure to be rejected, the Maoists will claim historical victory, and a nasty confrontation becomes inevitable.

The next option is not much more comforting. Should the polls be held in a free and fair atmosphere, and the Maoists accrue less than 25 percent of the vote, reducing their influence from the one-third of seats they presently hold in parliament, they are sure to cry foul. Such a result may reflect the aspirations of the people but is unlikely to be accepted by the party and it will accuse royalists, regressive forces. and Foreign Hands of manipulating the vote.

Since Maoist doctrine condemns elections as a bourgeois tool used to keep the people down (don't ask me how) anyway, it will be easy for the party to backtrack on their shaky commitment to parliamentary politics. Unable to admit failure or mistakes and convinced of their role as the people's saviour, the party's fundamental belief that democracy is pointless will be confirmed if the voters refuse to do their bidding.

Any other reaction could lead to self-doubt and the nagging suspicion that their decade-long civil war was a colossal waste of time and lives, home truths seen as self-evident by most but still beyond the comprehension of the comrades.

Whichever way it goes, the quandary remains. In one case we have the Maoists fiercely defending election results skewed in their favour through intimidation. In the other we have them rejecting with equal fervour any outcome that doesn't meet their delusional expectations.

Take your pick

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)