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NEPAL: Who Needs Elections? Update No. 281

Note No. 684        Dated 11-June-2013

By Dr.S.Chandrasekharan.

It is more than one year now since the last CA was disbanded and yet  no new constitution is in place.  Will it be possible to complete the constitution at least in the next one year?  It looks very doubtful now.  But why? 

The political parties are themselves to blame as they seem to show no sense of urgency and for them it is “business as usual.” They also seem to be in total disconnect with people outside Kathmandu valley who are keen to have the elections and give a finality to constitution making!

A visit to Kathmandu Valley, gives the impression that none of the political parties is serious about conducting elections.  Since they continue to wield power through the high-level committee, they seem to be in no hurry to push for early elections.  They are still unable to decide whether the new constitutional making body should have 601 members as before or reduce it to 491.  It would not have mattered either way!

Similarly, some of the politicians are after the poor Chief Justice who reluctantly took over as chief of the interim administration, to make him resign from his original lien as chief justice as otherwise there is supposed to be “conflict of interests.”  If only the elections had taken place by June as was envisaged, the Chief Justice would have by now gone back to his job.

The controversy over the appointment of Karki as chairman of the CVCC has not died down though one is not sure the extent of damage he could possibly do in the short span available before a regular government takes over!

Most importantly, the four major political parties are yet to decide on the configuration of provinces.  Both the UML and the Nepali Congress continue to harp on multiple identity-based federalism while others are not sure.  One does not know where the Maoists stand as they seem to be shifting their goal posts on every issue.  Recently, during his visit to China Prachanda was told categorically that China was against “ethnic federalism.”   A compromise is possible if the Terai is left alone with two Madhesi provinces.

Though there is no official announcement, the time for conducting the elections by May/June is over and if the present attitude of the political parties who do not seem to feel any urgency to go ahead with the elections, it is doubtful whether elections will be held at all even in November- the next window available.

Outside the valley, on the contrary, the people are more enthusiastic and are looking forward to the elections as soon as possible. The civil society which had taken a leading role in the Jana Andolan II seems to have lost its steam and is no where to be seen.

President Yadav sensing the general drift of “inaction”of the four major political parties, asked Jhalanath Khanal of UML who is currently the chairman of the High Level Political Committee, to focus on the coming elections and elections alone. 

The latest controversy that is going to consume some time is the opposition to disallow people with criminal background to contest the elections.  The Election Commission in taking this decision had none in their mind but the Maoists think that these provisions have the potential for mischief to prevent their cadres from contesting! The intention is- “do not hold the elections until we are ready”- a tactic they followed in the last CA elections.

The four major parties the UCPN (M), Nepali Congress, UML and the Gacchadaar led Madhesi Group do not seem to make any effort to consult other smaller parties as they seem to think that the four could manage the election through.  As a reaction to this attitude, the CPN Maoist of Baidya, the Federal Socialist Party of Nepal led by Ashok Rai and that of the Federal Democratic Forum led by Upendra Yadav have agreed to launch a joint agitation against the “four party political syndicate.” This they should, to put some sense into the High Level Committee!

Both the Baidya Group and that of Upendra Yadav- (the latter getting more and more Madhesis into their fold from other parties) have the potential to disturb the elections very significantly.  Yet no attempt is being made to talk to Upendra Yadav directly!

The four major parties themselves are mutually suspicious and they have not realised that this is no time to talk ill of each other openly and create more problems for themselves before the elections.  In the recent high level meeting of UML, the party while showing its readiness to forge an alliance with all democratic parties except the Maoists called the Nepali Congress as “status quoist.”  The party is not realising that because of its stand on a non ethnic-based federalism, an exodus of janajathi leaders is taking place.  The exit of Ram Chandra Jha to the Maoists is certain to make a dent on its prospects in the Madhesi area in the coming elections.

The Nepali Congress has been a disappointment throughout.  There is no doubt that the Maoists have outwitted them.  The top three leaders of Nepali Congress are getting increasingly isolated and they seem to be unaware of the ground conditions outside the Kathmandu valley.  It may be too harsh, but it looks that the party would fare better if the triumvirate gives up the leadership to many others down the line of whom many of them are very capable!

It is not too late for the four major parties instead of finding fault with each other to concentrate on getting the elections through in November at least.  This is the least they can do to keep the country moving!