Faltering steps towards November

Ahead of next month’s election,the fear of violence has receded. But other anxieties continue to haunt.

Published:October 21, 2013 4:00 am

The election to the Constituent Assembly on November 19 entered a crucial phase with the filing of nominations. The fear that those boycotting the polls may violently obstruct this process seems to have vanished. But new hiccups continue to occur.

Last week,the Election Commission announced that it would not be able to issue photo IDs for all 12.5 million voters,since it has failed to decide whom to award the contract for printing them.

The EC faces criticism for being “inefficient” and “corrupt”,with a section of the media suggesting that the dispute over kickbacks spoiled a more reliable voting process.

The campaign,which will probably pick up after the festival season,has already injected enough fear in candidates with the death of Mohammad Alam last Thursday,a week after he was attacked by unidentified persons. The police chief even suggested that he be kept alive with artificial support at least till the elections. Alam’s body was kept in an army barracks overnight and his last rites conducted amidst tight security. However,Madhav Ghimire,the home minister of the electoral government promised that all 6,000-plus candidates will be given foolproof security cover.

Chief Justice and executive head Khil Raj Regmi appears circumspect as the November date draws closer. He has said that even a 50 per cent turnout will be enough for the election’s legitimacy,appearing to address the question being raised by the public. The problems of a possible low turnout because of fear or indifference,and persisting doubts as to how the same actors who failed to deliver the constitution over four years will perform a different feat now,are yet to be responded to by the key players.

So far,the only party to have come out with a manifesto is the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N). This is the party that says the four major parties — which “imposed” their agenda of a secular and federal republic — have failed,and that all these issues should be reviewed. The party has projected its chief,Kamal Thapa,as its prime ministerial candidate in case it wins. Thapa says,“We will restore constitutional monarchy,with the people as the source of sovereignty,declare Nepal a Sanatani Hindu Rashtra,and have a more effective decentralised governance system.”

On the other hand,the four big parties have not only not been able to bring out their manifestos,they are also at a loss as to who to blame for their governance failure. Prachanda,chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist,says that for the delivery of the constitution,his party would need at least a two-thirds majority. But with politics and parties so fractured,there is speculation that the new House will be a more fragmented one,and that other parties,including the RPP-N,will emerge as forces to reckon with.

The much-promised “politics of consensus” died a tragic death,with key parties not being able to decide on the models of federalism and governance. A more fragmented House will make this schism wider. The questions now are: Is this election meant to elect a Constituent Assembly? Will it enable the CA to deliver a constitution? The multiplicity of parties — 139 altogether — and the likelihood of many of them entering the House through the proportional representation system,will make their orderly management ever more difficult. Nepal will once again likely have a House where horse-trading will be more common than a serious constitution-making exercise.

The anger at the moment may be directed at the EC for its failure to deliver photo IDs. But that is just the first major setback. More will probably follow.

Yubaraj Ghimire

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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