17-23 March 2017 #850

Back to the golden age

If elections are not held, it will be a violation of the Constitution.
Rishiraj Lumsali
The foundation of Nepal’s progress in health and education was laid between 1992 and 2002. During that decade, 17,000 km of roads were built, 40,000 classrooms were added. That was when Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) and mothers' groups were strengthened, vaccination campaigns scaled up. Nepal’s development parameters improved dramatically.

It was all possible because local government councils were run by the people’s elected representatives. After the dissolution of elected bodies in 2002, unelected cartels have been plundering local resources. They have the authority to spend local budgets without having to be accountable to the people. Dubbed ‘all-party mechanisms’, they function as ‘all-party crooks’.

Nearly 20 years after the last local elections, the people have an opportunity to elect their local representatives again. Across the country there is an election fever, voters are already thinking about whom to elect as mayors or village chiefs. The enthusiasm is not just because we have a date for elections (14 May) but because the people were always eager to exercise grassroots democracy.

It is just a handful of leaders of the Madhesi Front who do not want local elections. That is because they are against true decentralisation. The constitution has given much more authority to yet-to-be-elected municipal and village councils. The VDCs and municipalities that were dissolved this week were not as powerful. Madhesi leaders are against local elections because they want to elect municipal and village councils under provincial governments. Their versions of local councils will be controlled by the provincial centres. Fortunately, the Madhes is not just home to the Morcha, but to the Nepali Congress, the UML and other parties.

The Election Commission is geared up and ready for 14 May. The people are ready to cast their votes. So the political leadership should not backtrack from elections just because a political force is against it. The people’s right to periodic elections is enshrined in the Constitution as a fundamental right. If elections are not held, it will be a violation of the Constitution.

People in Province 2 also want elections. I do not think they will stay away from voting just because the Morcha boycotts elections. But if elections are disrupted in Province 2, it would not be wise to call off elections throughout the country. The decade of 1992-2002 was the golden age of local development in Nepal. We finally have a chance to revive that era. We should not squander this opportunity.

Rishiraj Lumsali is the President of Association of District Development Committees of Nepal (ADDCN)

Read also:

Hunger for change, Editorial

Think nationally, act locally, Editorial

The elephant in the room, Om Astha Rai

Foundations of democracy, Om Astha Rai

People want local polls

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