Nepali Times Asian Paints
Here And There
Vote for change


A mood for change is sweeping the world's democracies. In the manner of the Chinese proverb, these are, indeed, interesting times.

It began in Spain, a few days after the tragedy and outrage of the Madrid terror bombings. The Spanish voters turned away from the safe choice of their Prime Minister's conservative party and opted for radical change. The socialists, however much they came to power on the back of a national tragedy, are sweeping away plenty of national cobwebs and articulating the electorate's visceral dislike of the war in Iraq.

Across Europe, this past week or so, voters spoke out loudly against incumbent parties-whoever they were. Even in countries with governments that opposed the war in Iraq, notably Germany, the vote went against those in power, often to the detriment of polite politics as usual.

In Britain, the mainstream Labor and Conservative parties were swept aside in favour of an extreme anti-Europe force that claims to be in favour of "independence" for the United Kingdom. Tony Blair's support of George Bush in Iraq probably hurt him the most. Other than the war, his government hasn't been doing a bad job, in the eyes of many independent commentators. The public, however, does not like Blair's war.

My own native land, Canada, is all ahoo right now as the natural governing, centre-left Liberal party looks set to lose power for the first time since 1993. Again, this was a government that refused to send troops to Iraq. But Canadians, however much they agreed with that, are fed up with politics as usual. And they're taking a serious look at a right wing party that they've rejected scornfully for years now. It's not that the country is moving to the right. It's just a feeling that every now and then, you need to throw the bums out.

America remains the most interesting electoral battleground of all. The country went to war pretty much behind its president. George Bush convinced the majority of voters that Iraq needed to be invaded and brought to heel. Congress agreed. There was a consensus across the political spectrum that no president has had since World War II. But the latest polls show a volatile and angry group of people preparing to vote in the next election. They don't know what to make of Iraq. Yes, it's good that Saddam is gone, they say, but why does the aftermath seem to be such a mess? Yes, there has to be sacrifice to pay for the war against terrorist groups, but why don't the rich assume their share of the burden? And increasingly, say the opinion polls, they're blaming their president.

In the end, no matter what the result in any of these elections, victory by incumbents or stunning loss, this is a good time for democracy. The angry tumult among voters is getting through to politicians and if they don't change, they pay the price. Anti-incumbency is a sign of healthy democracy. Too bad the incumbent in Nepal isn't elected, whether you say it is Deuba or the king. Isn't it time to change that so the voters don't have only violence as an outlet for their frustrations? Nepalis have shown the instinct of mature democratic voters many times in the past. It's time to let them do that again, even if it means throwing the bums out.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)