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Nepal: Second CA Polls on 19th- Victory for the People: Update No. 287

Note No: 702          Dated   20-Nov-2013

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

Despite the threats of using violent means to disrupt the elections by the CPN(Maoist- Baidya Group), the people of Nepal ignored the threats and voted in large numbers for the second Constituent Assembly Polls.

It was not that the elections were violence free. There were bombing incidents in many places and the vigilant security forces prevented many incidents. In one case in Jajarkot the Police arrested two CPN cadres just as they were laying cables for detonating a bomb. Six high density bombs were exploded in Rolpa. Rolpa district incidentally, was a stronghold of the Maoists in the insurgency days bu had a record 83percent of voting this time. Again it was in Rolpa this time, that at one polling booth at Thawang not a single voter turned up!

There was a major blast at the UML’s election office at Chitwan. In the same district two vehicles belonging to the UCPN (M) of Dahal were also torched.

The point to be noted was that despite the banda (street blockade) inflicted on the people for the last ten days and the bombing incidents, people defied them and went to the booths in large numbers to cast their votes. There were incidents where the CPN Maoist cadres physically barred the voters from going to the booths when the police were not around or not in sufficient numbers. Some analysts are so naive that they think that the Maoists may not have adopted violent methods if only the Election Commission had allowed people to give "negative votes" as is being thought of in India. Perhaps they have not understood what the CPN Maoists stand for.

Two days earlier the Chief Election Commissioner openly condemned those agitating parties creating terror by attacking people with bombs as terrorists.

Credit for getting the elections through should first go to the people and then to the interim administration headed by the Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi, the Home Minister Madhav Prasad Ghimre as well as the security forces comprising both the Army and the Police.

Poll related incidents were reported from Gorkha, Dolakha, Siraha, Dailekh, Dhanusha and Sarlahi. There would have been incidents in many other districts, but reports are yet to come.

One person who must have been pleased with the large turnout was the Chief Election Commissioner Nilkantha Upreti. He called it a "historic turnout" with over 70 percent of the voters casting the votes despite the violence.

Some Details of the Elections:

1. There were 12.21 million voters to pick up 575 members for the second constituent assembly with 240 under the first past the post system ( FPTP) and the rest under the Proportional system.

2. Over two hundred thousand security personnel were deployed during the elections. This was an unprecedented number but had to be done with the prevalent threats against the smooth running of the polls. Some were quick to point out that at last, the Army has emerged as a political and credible partner in Nepal. Credible partner is one thing, but to describe the Army which has remained apolitical since 1990 as in Indian tradition, as a political partner would bring in many other controversial issues!

3. In the last elections there were 17.6 million voters and this has been drastically reduced to 12,147,665 voters this time. The steep drop this time is said to be the result of EC adopting the biometric voter registration system to avoid duplication.

4. There were 16837 contestants with 6128 in the FPTP and 10,709 under the Proportional representation system belonging to 122 parties, a larger number than the previous one (54)

5. There were 355 international observers that included former president Jimmy Carter of US and the Election Commissioners from Afghanistan, Maldives and Bhutan.

6. Counting of votes has already begun, but it may take a week or even more for the final results to be formally announced. It is said that both the King’s party RPP led by Kamal Thapa and the Nepali Congress may fare better this time, but it is too early to make any definitive assessments.

What Next? The challenges are huge:

Conducting the elections despite the sporadic violence is the easy part. The tough part is going to be the challenges that will be faced by the incumbent administration to get a formal constitution made and converting the present assembly as the parliament.

The basic issue that needs to be settled at the outset will be the nature of federalism. There is a vertical political divide seen with one group for having states on geographic lines having economic sustainability and the other with states based on ethnicity and identity.

Without going into minute details, an outline could first be made but even that can be done only after the principal dilemma of configuration of states is settled. There could be even problems in the appointment of president and vice president.

With the kind of enthusiasm seen among the people in going to the polls, the members of the second Constituent Assembly will not be forgiven if they waste their time without producing quickly an acceptable constitution. They are being elected specifically for this purpose.