29 November-5 December 2013 #683

Work in progress

BBC Sajha Sawal, 24 November

Q&A session with UML leader Ishwar Pokharel, NC leader Minendra Rijal, political analyst CK Lal, and UCPN (M) spokesperson Agni Sapkota on what the election results mean for the future of Nepal.

The people of Nepal have fulfilled their duty, but will they get a constitution this time?

CK Lal: The first thing we can learn from this election is that Nepalis want a constitution at the earliest possible date. The people don’t want a complete upheaval, but an improved status-quo. So the challenge for the parties is to draft a constitution that treats everyone equally, addresses identity, is inclusive, and also regards capacity as a basis for federalism. They cannot afford to squabble among themselves like last time.

Minendra Rijal: Yes, it will be written. Both the NC and UML asked people to vote for ‘democratic parties’ and this time it looks like we will have a majority. But it doesn’t mean we will keep the Maoists out of the process.

Why is the UCPN (M) trailing so far behind in the vote count?

Agni Sapkota: People voted for us, but there was massive electoral fraud from the moment the officials transported the ballot boxes from the booths to the district headquarters. I can give you hundreds of examples.

But all national and international monitoring agencies said this year’s elections were far better than the 2008 polls.

Agni Sapkota: The Nepali public fully agrees with our agenda, but their voice has been suppressed. Certain parties are spreading rumours that we are crying foul because we have been defeated. But someday, the people will find out the truth about how their votes were hijacked in 2013. A constitution can be written without us, but it will be an exact copy of the one drafted in 1990.

CK Lal: Listen, one can seek legal recourse to fraud. But if the powers that be themselves have sanctioned this malpractice, there is no solution. We have to leave it to history, just like we found out about the fraud in the 1980 referendum only after the 1990 uprising.

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has threatened to boycott the CA and return to the streets. Does the party want to drag Nepal back into war?

Agni Sapkota: The country has regressed to a feudal era. It’s all part of a grand design. We are busy discussing this issue. Mind you, electoral fraud is a serious matter.

Is it not a better idea to let Khil Raj Regmi’s government carry on with day-to-day state affairs while the lawmakers concentrate on drafting the constitution?

Ishwar Pokharel: We agreed in April that this government would hand over power to an elected body. If we want to amend this accord, all the parties will have to come to the drawing board once again.

What will the other parties do if the Maoists decide not to participate?

Minendra Rijal: My job is to ensure everyone participates. The Maoists obtained over one third votes in 2008, but they took that as a sign to do what they please. It is clear that the mandate this year has given the green light to the NC and UML’s proposals. However, the Maoists need to be a part of the process, it would be foolish to ignore them.

CK Lal: The NC accepted defeat in the 1980 referendum and boycotted the 1982 elections. The show went on. The state wrote a constitution, but could not prevent the 1990 uprising. While writing the 1990 constitution, the UML agreed but not without a note of dissent. The consequences are there for all to see. The state cannot stop moving forward.

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