Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Hold all elections

The terms of local body officials ends in Asar [the current Nepali month]. The government has also announced dates for general elections. How best do you think the local governments can operate in this scenario?
According to the Local Governance Act, the terms of local bodies can be extended for a year in case of unusual circumstances such as natural disasters or economic indiscipline.. I feel that the term of the local bodies should be extended in keeping with this legal provision. In normal circumstances, local representatives are elected for a term of five years. Although five years have passed, the government is making excuses that it cannot hold local elections. On the other hand, the government has dissolved parliament and has announced the date for general elections. How can it say local elections cannot be held on the grounds of insecurity and unusual circumstances, and then propose that general elections be held? We feel that the dates for local elections should be announced immediately, so both local elections and parliamentary elections can be held on the same day.

On what grounds do you say that both elections should be held on the same day? Is there a precedent for this in other countries?
It happens in many countries around the world. Local and general elections take place on the same day. We could do the same. By holding both elections simultaneously, we'd save on administrative and economic costs, and have a handle on security. Also, this election would enable those people from all parties to go to every ward who believe in this constitution but have been unable to go to the villages. It will facilitate political movement and activity at the local level. It will help make democracy more effective at the local level.

Have you presented this alternative before the government?
We have. We have set clearly before the government the thoughts of the Federation of District Development Committees. We have met with Prime Minister Deuba. He said that he would extend our term in office. But we heard him saying on Nepal Television, while attending some program, that he would not extend the local representatives' terms. It doesn't bode well for the country when a person in his respectable position keeps changing his line of thought. It leads to instability and weakens the democratic process. All democratic forces have to challenge such autocratic actions.

The government says that it won't extend the term of local representatives; you say that it should. Is there an alternative?
I feel that the alternative to democracy is autocracy. For those who believe in democracy, there can be no alternative. A sovereign people exercise their rights through the representatives they elect. There has been an attempt to capture power by nominating individuals, party workers, and enlisting people, and not through associations of people's representatives. This trend will continue despite criticism. There is absolutely no alternative to democracy.

Has the government discussed the unusual current circumstances with locally elected representatives and the Federation of DDCs?
It has not, yet. The government should take the correct path. In a democracy you solve crises through talks, debate. We're prepared to talk. The local bodies play an important role in institutionalising and strengthening democracy and bringing about social change. In fact, it is the local bodies that have been effectively carrying out work and make the presence of the state felt. If it weren't for the municipalities, the VDCs, and the DDCs, the people wouldn't experience the rule of the state. If at this point the government removes the locally elected representatives, the majority of the people will be alienated.

Maybe the government decided not to hold local elections because it is unable to.
If you can't hold one election, you can't hold any election. The same electorate votes at the same polling centres, the process is the same. It's laughable to say that in the case of the local elections they cannot, but for parliamentary elections, they can. If the government can guarantee security during parliamentary elections why can't they guarantee it during local elections? The government's stand is ridiculous, wrong.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)