Nepali Times
All politics is local

It has been ten years since the country's VDCs, DDCs and municipalities have remained without elected representatives. That is ten years too long.

The Maoists get a lot of blame for demolishing local democracy in this country by systematically targeting elected village and district councillors and bombing most VDC and DDC buildings during the war. But equally, if not more, destructive was the NC government in 2002 led by Sher Bahadur Deuba postponing local elections just because it didn't want the opposition UML to continue its dominance in local bodies. This created a vacuum in the villages which the Maoists easily filled with their terror-based approach to garnering local support.

Today, the constitution-writing process is derailed, we have no national parliament, the country is being ruled by a government that has outlived its mandate, it is led by a lame duck prime minister and a ceremonial president. If anyone were out to sabotage governance in this country, they couldn't have done a better job.

There is a deadline for constitutional amendment on 22 July which is most certainly not going to be met. Chances of elections for a new Constituent Assembly by November are slim which may not be altogether a bad thing. But what we need much more urgently is a functional parliament to get this country back on its feet. A new CA is just going to be another expensive dead-end, and too fraught for the fragile polity to handle. Even more outlandish is the proposal floated by those arrayed against the prime minister, to resurrect the old CA. As if that would resolve anything.

But there is one move that is doable and could, in a manner of speaking, kill a lot of birds with one stone: holding local elections. This would help untangle the hopelessly knotted politics, end this paralysing uncertainty, kick start local development, and get the country moving again. Given the current legal limbo, local elections would be the most constitutionally kosher thing to do.

This year's Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey in May showed extreme dissatisfaction among people about the prolonged absence of democracy, especially at the local level. The absence of elected local representatives has not only stalled development, it has bred corruption because VDCs and DDCs are run like three-party dictatorships. Asked when there should be new local elections, 41 per cent of respondents said 'right away' and 26 per cent said after the new constitution, but before the general election. This reaffirms the public perception that only grassroots democracy can deliver development services.

If there was one thing that worked in Nepal since 1990, it was grassroots democracy. It empowered elected village leaders to focus on the health, education and welfare of their constituents and allowed them to be re-elected based on performance. The councils could have been more inclusive, but as education levels improved, that would have happened.

At the village or district level, it doesn't really matter which party a candidate belongs to, as the best and most honest managers get the job so they can improve people's lives. In the absence of elected municipal councils, Nepal's cities are bursting at the seams with unplanned growth, crumbling infrastructure, mountains of garbage, and rivers that have turned into sewers. But all the big parties are reluctant to go for local elections because they are afraid of facing the people whom they have misled for so long.

National politics is a mess and hopelessly stuck. While we wait for party leaders to get their act together, the least they can do is fulfil the people's aspiration for representational local government.

Read also:
A democratic jolt, RUBEENA MAHATO
The NC and UML are dominated by failed and ageing alpha males from the past, it's time to make a clean break

Monsoon of the megalomaniacs, ANURAG ACHARYA
A new government made up of old leaders will mean the same old

Humanitarian fallout
Nepal's constitutional deadlock has humanitarian consequences for its people

1. Raghu

Why would they want local elections.? The 3 parties get to accumulate massive wealth for their parties and cadres in the name of local development. They want to jeopardise their cash cow would they?  The party leaders and members opulent lifestyle is being supported by not having elected local members but party nominated yes men.

2. Gopal
Deuba is the biggest traitor of Nepal. Does any know know this. This uncouth disolved an elected parliament and Gyanendra almost became an absolute King. What punsihment does this Deuba deserve. Who will punish him. You cannot only blame the Maobadies, blame NC and UML for they have really screwed Nepal and Nepalis. We have no one to lead us, criminals and corruption is the new name for Nepalis. We have no shame or honor anymore. It just plain sucks.     

3. K. K. Sharma
You can wait for the incompetents to be competent for eternity. But do not blame the people for waiting for "the parties to get their acts together." Do not try to deceive your readers by calling I ( you ) as we.

And yes, as Raghu # 1, has pointed out, " why would they want local elections"?

4. Suresh Chalise
Misleading Title for this piece. All politics is in Kathmandu Valley ! All the filthy, rottoen to the core, corrupted politicians and beaureaucrats are concentrated in Kathmandu Valley. Nepal is a Banana Repblic, just face that. Everyone is out to make a quick million or a billion and there is no rule of law. India is corrupted, so is Pakistan and Bangaladesh and Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. The whole neighbourhood is in the gutter. What can we as a people do. The business  mafia and political gangsters control our lives and destiny. The is the world we live in today, a world that is unjust and unfair to the meek and weak segments of society. The question to ask is if we all know that NC and UML and Moaist have looted us blind, why do we keep putting up with that, why are these vile leaders not in jail.  The old, dishonest and corrupted men must be replaced. There is no 2nd option. The people must revolt. Oh yes, do not forget the cowardly civil society, in cahoots with the powers that be, so they too can make a few misreable ruppees. This is the state of the Nation of Nepal.  It will take a Superman or woman to set this ship right. Who is that man or woman.   

5. Jaya Nepali
Your editorial is absolutely right that the real enemy of democracy has turned out to be the Nepali Congress, and especially the most opportunist of them all: Sher Bahadur Deuba. The Maoists were true to their ideology in bombing VDCs since terro and violence is their creed. But for Nepal's only truly democratic party to have aborted local elections in 2002 was a body blow. The Congress can stil redeem itself by standing up for grassroots democracy, but sadly we don't see any indication of that yet.

6. Sushil J Thapa
Sher Bahadur Deuba belongs permanently in jail. He is an enemy of Nepal, a traitor, a lair and and a theif, a man wothout any moral convictions or values, an animal in other words. Deuba is the one and only reason Nepal is drifting today and the Communist are in power. Its lucky for Deuba that Nepal is not like  Afghanistan or Pakistan, when its comes to dealing with enemy of State.        

7. Srijana Singh
# 6  has a point. Inept and incompetent, it was Deuba who destroyed democratic norms and values so he could remain as PM. This cowardly Deuba was double crossed by the then king Gyanendra. That was actually poetic justice. All NC and UML leaders from the 1990 era deserved to be in jail for they are all PROVEN ENEMIES of Nepal. Its a shame that countries like India, USA and UK turn a blind eye to the injustice and back these criminal like leaders that know only how to loot the government treasury. What a shame for all involved directly or indirectly in the downfall of Nepal. What more is left to be said or written. There are only cowards and thieves in Nepal today, for all the honest and educated and capable men / women have left for foreign lands. The state and future of Nepal looks very dim and bleak.         

8. Mahendra Singh
Its a matter of utter shame and disgust for Nepalis to follow leaders like Koirala or Dahal or Deuba or Nepal. Let it known to all that these disgraced Netas are not capable of governing Nepal and bringing prosperity to Nepalis. The sooner the people know this truth the better. We Nepalis, we need to get rid of a handful of people that can be counted in 10 fingers and send them to hell. If this is accomplished, Nepali can then dare to hope to see the light at the end, if not, the loot and murder will continue. 

9. Krishna S.
Couldn't agree more. First held local election, followed by national parliament election, and, form a panel of experts to draft the constitution. In the mean time, Baburam Govt. is fine especially considering the incompetent  alternatives. 

10. Bikas Gurung
Everyone in Kathmandu, who is or maybe someone, including foreign diplomats know that the politicians of Nepal are rotten to the core of their being. Yet, the misguided Western powers keep on supporting the looters and killers and the people equally are apathetic. This situation must change and change immediately. Deuba disolved an elected Parliament. BRB disolved the C A. How can we let these criminals ruin our future. Those leaders that are known to have looted the treasury must be jailed. Where is the rule of law. Why are Nepalis not outraged with lack of water and electricty and petrol and gas and jobs and education and healthcare. These are basic needs we all need. The way things are going, the poor people can only pary and hope for there is not 1 man or 1 woman in Nepal today that can lead. How sad is that ???   

11. 7

Does anyone feel this way or is it just me?!

People talk about Deuba as if it's gonna affect their future. What good would come out of it? I don't know why we are so caught up with CA, elections, democracy and all that jazz that don't even have any significance. I'm not saying they are worthless issues to fight over but we've got bigger holes to dig and fill. I want my right to work in my own country and pay my Govt. taxes, I want to go home turn on the lights and TV and rest for a while, I want to ride/drive around my country without newars/bahuns/janajatis/madhesis/pahadis telling me I'm not permitted to do so, I want the next generation to stay homebound so we could have an intellectual workforce. That's all. My right to vote and freedom can wait.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)