Nepali Times
State Of The State
The trouble with the election


Earlier this week, Koirala dropped another political bombshell from Biratnagar-that elections to the constituent assembly are impossible in June unless the Maoists cooperate by letting VDC secretaries touch base and allowing police stations to be re-established in the countryside.

These two preconditions appear innocuous, but a closer examination of the timing, wording, and manner of expression reveals something about the seven-party alliance and Maoists: the political will to conduct the all-important elections by June isn't there.

The prime minister's argument is circular. An interim legislature and executive can't be formed without promulgating the interim constitution. That can't come into effect unless arms management is completed. That requires the full cooperation of Maoist cadre in the countryside, which can't be assured if their leaders aren't on board in the central government.

The Maoist leadership apparently knows Girijababu's game, but is also not in a hurry to challenge the status quo. They need time and money to build an effective electoral machine all over the country. Koirala's fresh preconditions give them the chance to garner both.

At the end of the day, the Maoists won't be blamed if elections aren't held. The government made the promise, and it is the state's responsibility to declare election dates and complete the necessary procedures in time. The ruling coalition seems to have forgotten that pretexts are tools of oppositional politics, and excuses from government, failures.

The Nepali Congress has reason to be wary of a June election. For one, the fear of Maoist militia hasn't yet subsided in the countryside. Add to that the lure of district headquarters for Congress's middle ranks who have become accustomed to urban comforts.

The NC(D) splinter group is top-heavy and has negligible presence at the grassroots. The one way for this group to save itself from toppling over is to merge with the parent party. But that is a bitter pill, because the NC(D) has a higher proportion than any other political party in the country of leaders with ambitions higher than their capabilities.

Madhab Nepal knows elections can't be held in June for practical reasons related to constituency delineation, distribution of citizenship certificates, and compilation of updated electoral rolls. So he has directed UML leaders to play the dual role of partner in Singha Darbar and opposition in the streets. It's a dicey strategy, but faced with competition from Maoists for the same constituency-the vocal petty bourgeoisie who worship mammon but swear by Marx and Mao-the UML has little choice.

Left to themselves, it looks as if the political parties are happy to keep the country in permanent limbo. The commitment of the political class to CA elections is a compulsion forced upon them by the April Uprising. The Maoists too are uncomfortable with the uncertainties of electoral politics and have agreed to playact, "I'll pretend to beat you while you act hurt and cry," as it goes in Nepali.

Civil society, while it does realise the futility of an endless wait, doesn't acknowledge that an interim constitution which doesn't create the grounds for fair polls is redundant, if not outright counterproductive. From whatever has seeped into the media, the proposed statute intends to keep intact unequal constituencies. By insisting on its immediate promulgation, civil society is complicit in sabotaging meaningful changes in Nepal's polity.

The tribulations of democratic struggle in Nepal are far from over. Only the contestation of the marginalised can expose the witting or unwitting conspiracy of consensus being imposed upon a hapless population.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)