10-16 May 2013 #655

On life support

Our obsession with the see-saw of day-to-day politics means we have lost sight of the big picture and are actively repeating old mistakes
Trishna Rana
In early March, politically charged Kathmandu was abuzz with Khil Raj Regmi’s appointment as the head of an electoral government. Last week Pushpa Kamal Dahal hogged the limelight with his visits to neighbours in the north and south and this week it was Lok Man Singh Karki’s turn. Next week it will be someone or something else who will once again take away focus from holding polls in November. The nation’s short attention span means we have not only lost sight of the big picture, but are actively repeating the same old mistakes.

Our democracy has been on critical life support since April 2010 when elected representatives failed to write a new constitution. Everything in the past three years from choosing the head of government to announcing (and then postponing) election dates has happened through dubious amendments to the interim constitution, closed door horse trading, and on the whim of ageing?alpha males. Ordinary Nepalis have been completely shut out of the democratic process. From time to time small numbers gather outside Baluwatar and Singha Darbar, but public outrage too is fickle, it comes and goes.

There is also a feeling of déjà vu from 2007-2008 as we stagger towards another CA elections. Elections were postponed from June to November in 2007 because no one was ready. November came and went and parties still could not reach an agreement on which electoral system to follow. Finally after two abortive attempts polls took place in May, but not without major hiccups.

Six years on, the flip-flopping continues. The government is hesitant to announce dates, preparations for polls are moving at a snail’s pace, political leaders don’t seem particularly keen to get the election ball rolling, and the fringe parties are refusing to even register at the Electoral Commission. The NC, UCPN(M), and UML particularly seem low on confidence after their trips to the Tarai to gauge public opinion did not turn out as well as they had expected.

After one and half month of being the chairman of the interim electorate cabinet, Regmi finally seems to have tired of photo ops and has finally called for a meeting with all major parties including Mohan Baidya and his men on Friday. But there are too many lose strings at the moment for the meeting to produce any concrete resolution. With the commotion surrounding Karki still fresh we can expect another week or two of distraction.

Clearly, a?refocus?is required on the part of the CJ-led government. The only reason Khil Raj Regmi is in Singha Darbar is to hold polls, but none of the ribbon cutting ceremonies he has presided over as chief guest has done anything to boost the public’s confidence. The more time he wastes in political foot dragging the more clear it will be to Nepalis about who pulls the strings.

Nepalis will have to carry the burden of the mistake Regmi and his men made on Wednesday by allowing Karki to head the CIAA for the next six years. But he still has one more chance to set things right. Whatever the conclusions of the meeting on Friday, the lawyer turned head of government will have to be more assertive and declare election dates in November with no provision of extensions whether the parties like it or not. With no other option remaining, the parties will be jolted into action and will have to get their act together.

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