Yuba Nath Lamsal
Unless some new and unforeseen developments emerge in Nepal’s national political scene, the election to the second constituent assembly would be held on November 19 this year. The four major political forces namely the UCPN-Maoist, the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the Madhesi Front, which represent in the high level political mechanism, reached an agreement to hold the constituent assembly election in November for which the neutral election government headed by the sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court has been entrusted. Although some political groups have expressed their resentment over the procedures taken for the election, it can be expected that the disgruntled parties, too, would ultimately come on board and take part in the electoral process. While most of the disgruntled parties have appeared softer with the demand of some changes in the electoral procedures to ensure their participation in the election, the CPN-Maoist, which came into existence after breaking away from the mother party UCPN-Maoist, is more adamant on joining the election. The CPN-Maoist is demanding that the present non-party neutral government be dismissed, the ordinance to facilitate the election scrapped and November election date deferred to ensure its participation in the polls. However, these demands are less likely to be accepted by other parties and the government, which would make difficult for the CPN-Maoist to participate in the election.
Still efforts are underway to ensure its participation in the historic polls. Given its demands and position of other parties, it appears less likely that the CPN-Maoist will participate in the election. Thus the government is more likely to go ahead with the election even if the CPN-Maoist and its allies decide to boycott and disrupt the election. But efforts are still underway to convince the disgruntled parties and bring them on electoral board because the government and other stakeholders are well aware of some of the possible consequences from the election without the participation of all parties.
If the CPN-Maoist and its allies resort to violent approach to disrupt the election, it will definitely impact the entire process. In the first place, it will pose serious challenge to security organs to ensure fearless voting. In such a situation, voters’ turn out may be low. But, given the tone and tenor of some leaders of the CPN-Maoist, it is expected that they would choose to boycott the election and allow the electoral process to go ahead. There is still a school of thought that says that the boycott threat is merely a bargaining chip of the disgruntled parties, which would ultimately join the electoral race. But there are some who are of the view that it would not be possible to hold the election in a free, fair and peaceful manner if CPN-Maoist tries to disrupt the election. If the election was held without the participation of all parties, the question of credibility and legitimacy will always come up in Nepal’s post-poll politics. The constitution written and promulgated after the election that was held without the participation of the disgruntled parties and groups will always leave room for a section of people to question about the legitimacy of the statute.
In such an eventuality, holding the election without the participation of all political forces and groups has a risk. But there is no alternative to election. In the present uncertain political situation, fresh mandate of the people is the only way out. While there is a risk of legitimacy question about the entire political and constitution writing exercises in the absence of participation of all political forces, there is also no guarantee that the second Constituent Assembly election, too, would come up with a constitution to be acceptable to all. The conditions and issues that led to the collapse of the first Constituent Assembly without delivering the constitution continue to remain unaddressed and resolved. Unless these conditions and issues are not settled and a basic agreement on some key and contentious issues was not reached among the major political parties, it is very likely that the second Constituent Assembly, too, will meet the fate of the first Constituent Assembly.
Against this background, people are still skeptical about the possibility of holding the election in November this year. Their skepticism has valid ground mainly because the election was supposed to be held in July this year, for which the present government was formed. The election in July could not be held for the lack of adequate time, preparation and other legal tools needed for the election. The government was well aware of this situation and wanted to announce the date for the election once all necessary preparations were complete. Now the election date has already been announced after making necessary homework and the government. Similarly, the Election Commission, too, is seriously working to complete this mission. Thus there should not be any kind of doubt and skepticism about the November 19 election.
But people are still not fully convinced and so are the political parties. In public, parties seem to be committed to election and confident about the November 19 election. But, in private, parties do not appear fully prepared for the election in November. The reason is obvious that they are not sure about their position in the election, although all major parties claim that they would emerge winners in the election.
Particular party may win or lose seats in the Constituent Assembly because election is a political sporting in which one wins and other lose. But the election is a democratic process in which country and people win. This is more so in the present political context because the election alone would end the political transition and herald in a new political era of peace, stability and prosperity in the country. Thus, the election is a must for which all responsible person and party is required to extend meaningful support. If the election is derailed or delayed for any reason, it would only deepen confusion, chaos and crisis in the country. Since the present political arrangement was made with consensus agreement of major political parties, the delay and disruption would also raise question about the credibility and competence of our political parties and our institutions both at home and abroad. Thus, election must be held on the scheduled day, for which necessary initiative needs to be taken on the part of the political parties to create atmosphere conducive for all political parties and groups to take part in the election.
Free and fair election is a soul of democracy. Holding election just for the sake of election alone would not serve the real purpose. Election should genuinely reflect the people's sentiment and voice. In order to ensure free and fair election, security arrangements should be made in a proper manner so that voters would be able to cast their ballots without any kind of fear and intimidation. Secondly, voters should be adequately educated about the election system, process of the election and voting procedures. The higher is the voters’ turn out, the more successful would be the election. The voters' turn out would depend on security arrangement and good voter education. If the people are assured of the security and if they are properly educated about the importance of constituent assembly election and voting system, the voters' turn out would be definitely high. There is another aspect of the election that is related with the quality of voting. It has to be ensured that voters give their verdict perfectly without any mistake so that no vote would be invalid. This, too, requires good and effective voters’ education.
The Election Commission has vowed not to allow any kind of fraud in the election and ensure flawless election, for which it has already announced a code of conduct to be followed by all stakeholders of the election. The Election Commission prepared the updated the election code of conduct, which has more teeth than the previous ones. But the announcement of the code of conduct alone may not serve the real purpose. The important aspect is its strict implementation right from the center to the polling booths. Given the human resource and expertise in the Election Commission, the code of conduct is not likely to be strictly followed and implemented. If the election conduct has to be strictly implemented, the Election Commission has to commission a team of experts and energetic people with adequate budget and resources. This would alone check goons to influence the electoral process and ensure that genuine people would be elected.
The Election Commission, the government and other stakeholders of the election are, thus, required to pay serious attention to the aforementioned issues and accordingly act in order to ensure free, fair, fearless, peaceful and credible election. It needs a perfect coordination and cooperation among all concerned sectors until the last day of election. If these issues are appropriately addressed, the election would definitely be free, fair and credible representing the genuine verdict of the Nepalese people.