Nepals former first lady insisted that she was not a crook. If you read the newspapers,youd think I was the most corrupt woman in Nepal, said Hisila Yami,a Maoist leader and the wife of a former prime minister,Baburam Bhattarai.
Now that the Maoists have given up bank robbery,kidnapping and extortion,money is harder to come by,she acknowledged as she peeled off bills from a huge wad in her purse to give to campaign workers. People gave us money earlier out of fear,but they dont do that now, she said.
So Yami was squinting at shadows recently as she campaigned in living rooms darkened by routine power failures. She insisted to those gathered about her feet that all the stories of hidden wealth and secret efforts to undermine her husband when he was in office were just rumors. People think I had a lot of money,cars and homes,but that is not true, she said. When my husband was prime minister,I tried to help him. But people think I tried to overtake him.
After decades of political upheaval and paralysis,Nepal is scheduled to hold national elections on November 19. More than 120 political parties have registered to compete. Yet,with more than a dozen political parties including an important Maoist group boycotting the vote,there is some doubt that they will occur.
This months election is intended to create a second Constituent Assembly to finish the constitution.
The elections most intriguing subplot is among the Maoists. The hard-line faction,widely referred to as Dashist because of a dash in its name (Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist),called for a 10-day strike which began on November 11.
Our intention is to prevent people from participating in the election, said Pampha Bhusal,a Dashist politburo member,adding her party will not resort to violence again.
Everybodys one concern is security, said Ila Sharma,a member of Nepals Election Commission. One candidate has already been killed.
And then there is Yamis party,the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist),whose nickname is the Cashist party because of the vast sums of money its leaders are rumoured to have stolen. Like rich Communists elsewhere,Cashists have become deeply attached to capitalism. Even in China,capitalism is thriving in its own way, Yami said.
She also said that the embrace of democracy is now widely shared. We were just in the jungle four or five years ago,and now were sounding more democratic than the democrats.
Neel Kantha Uprety,the countrys chief election commissioner,however,admitted that vote buying was widely accepted. We do not have a culture of democracy, Uprety said.
The principal disagreements among the parties are whether to adopt the American,French or British governance models and how to split the country into states.
The Cashists want an executive presidency similar to that in the US,although none would admit to copying the US since,well,they are Maoists. The Marxist-Leninists want a French system with shared power between a president and prime minister.
A struggle for influence between India and China is another of the elections subtexts. The Maoists,who had the most seats in the previous assembly,favour China. The Nepali Congress party favours India.
The Chinese have not provided technical assistance,since their own experience with elections is limited, Uprety said with only the barest smile.