Nepal on Wednesday geared up for the first round of provincial and parliamentary polls seen as the last step in the country’s transition to a federal democracy, with all the parties making all-out efforts to convince voters by holding rallies and door-to-door campaigning. Nepal is holding provincial and parliamentary elections in two phases on November 26 and December 7.
The elections are being seen as the final step in Nepal’s transition to a federal democracy following a decade-long civil war till 2006 that claimed more than 16,000 lives. General Secretary of the ruling Nepali Congress, Shashank Koirala has said that people should vote for his party to safeguard democracy.
He said that the Nepali Congress will emerge victorious in the elections despite an alliance forged among the CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Centre and other fringe leftist groups. Speaking at an election rally in Solukhumbu district, he said that the Left alliance was born out of selfish interest, and it would collapse soon after the elections.
“The leftist electoral alliance would endanger democracy in the country,” he claimed. Meanwhile, CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli has said the upcoming elections are vital for the economic prosperity and political stability in the country and the alliance between his party and CPN (Maoist Center) is essential.
Speaking at another programme in Nawalparasi district, Oli alleged that the Nepali Congress leadership could not bail the country out of the current political crisis. With stiff competition expected from the UML-Maoist alliance in the polls, the Nepali Congress and Madhes-based parties are under pressure to forge electoral alliances across the Madhes districts neighbouring India even at the eleventh hour, according to political observers.
Party insiders said there was mounting pressure from local level leaders and cadres in various districts to work further on the electoral alliance. Earlier, the NC and the two Madhes-based parties had been engaged in negotiations, but could not forge an electoral alliance.
Meanwhile, police arrested five cadres of Netra Bikram Chand led Nepal Communist Party (NCP) from Syangja district in western Nepal and three from Ilam district in eastern Nepal today. The police said that the NCP cadres were arrested for carrying out anti-poll activities.
Around half a dozen small bombs were exploded in various parts of the country over the weekend targeting candidates, in which at least a dozen people were injured. The role of the NCP is suspected in some of these incidents. Election campaign will end on Friday mid-night, 48 hours ahead of the polls.
The polls are taking place under a new Constitution passed by lawmakers in September 2015 as part of a peace process that began with the end of a decade-long civil war. The polls are a major step toward implementing the new Constitution.