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Nepal: November 19 Elections should be gone through: Update No. 283

Note No: 691                     Dated 25-July-2013
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
 
With the elections coming within the next four months, doubts are being raised even now whether it could be held on the 19th November as decided by the government and the Election Commission.
 
On the 17th of this month, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil aviation mentioned rather casually that the government is ready to postpone the elections of Nov 19 and even make way for another government -if it helps in forging consensus among the political parties.  Consensus can never be achieved as could be seen that even after four years of existence the constituent assembly failed to reach a consensus and the major problems that led to its failure continue to remain unresolved even today.
 
It is unfortunate that such a statement should be made.  It shows a “defeatist mentality” and lack of determination on the part of the interim government that has been formed specifically to conduct the elections on the dates.  Elections in May could not be gone through and people will not accept another postponement from November 19.
 
An informal survey carried out by the Himalayan Times showed that people are keen to have the elections completed by November 19th as scheduled.  Any deliberate postponement will be seen as anti people and what is more will add to continued instability that is facing the country.
 
The first task of the government and the High Level Committee( the latter has no business to be there) is to tackle those groups that are against the elections.
 
The CPN (M) of Baidya has declared that it would not only “actively boycott” the elections but also post para military outfits to enforce their decisions.  It is time to call their bluff.  The media in Nepal appear to be very apprehensive of Baidya’s group disrupting the elections.  It is my view that they do not have the capability to disrupt the elections although they could be a nuisance value in many stations. They are in no position to return to the jungles either, though they have retained a few arms.  The High level security committee of the government has also come to the same conclusion.
 
But it does not mean that the government cannot accommodate some of their demands like  Regmi resigning from the post of Chief Justice.  Now that China has also advised Baidya during his recent visit to go along with the polls, it looks that Baidya’s group will be more flexible.
 
The other group - the MJF of Upendra Yadav has no reasons to continue their opposition to the elections.  In one month the Home Ministry had already issued over 600,000 citizenship certificates and even this is not relevant, as the Supreme Court has vacated the stay order of the EC that recognised even those without certificates as voters.
 
As for the Rai’s group and the 30 other fringe parties, it is good that the High Level Committee has agreed to have the round table conference and discuss the pending problems. They should be made to feel “involved” as much as the four major parties.
 
The real issue that is going to be a challenge to all the stake holders will be that of the task of the CDC (Constituency Delimitation Committee) that is supposed to submit a report within one month.
 
First is the directive of the Supreme Court to follow the 2011 consensus which would in effect increase the number of constituencies under the ‘first past the post’ system.
 
Second is the contradiction in the interim constitution itself.  Article 63 (3A) calls for increasing the constituencies in proportion to the population while Article 154(8) prohibits reducing the seats allotted to each district when the total strength was 205.
 
Third is the dilemma faced by the CDC  to choose between population and geography.  The terai population has gone over 50 percent and Gachhadhaar is demanding 121 out of 240 seats for Terai while the NC and the UML want geography also to be taken into consideration.       
 
 No doubt the constituency delineation has become a complicated process as mentioned by Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the Vice Chairman of the UCPN (M).  There are many options and these include-
 
1.  Keep the 240 number unchanged and do the delimitation for the 35 additional constituencies now agreed upon.  This is acceptable to the Nepali Congress and the UML and even to the CDC but not to the Madhesi groups.
 
2.  Carry out fresh delimitation of all the 240 constituencies. This is doable but will take another four months, well beyond the stipulated date for elections.
 
3.  Amend the Constitution and add more constituencies.  This again would involve reconfiguration of all constituencies and would take time beyond the election date.
 
The first option is the only doable one within the time available.  The CDC should take a quick decision and move on.  The Election process has already started with the Election code of conduct already in force.
 
What is needed is for all the stake holders to  feel a sense of urgency and not display a defeatist attitude.
 
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