Nepal is at a critical crossroads at present in terms of the law and order situation. The country is compelled to come to grips with the violence being ratcheted up by the Maoists. All the more since the Maoists carried out brutal assaults on the Thankot and Dadhikot checkposts on January 14, 2006, killing a dozen policemen. Since then, the Maoists have shown their true colours by attacking several places – Nepalgunj, Makawanpur, Dhangadhi, Bhojpur and, this week, Palpa.
The municipal polls are slated for next week, February 8. The whole country is agog at fever pitch with the polls. But there are obstacles looming large here and there, high and low, and right and left. It is the earnest desire of His Majesty the King that Nepal gradually come back to multi-party democracy.
The upcoming municipal polls are a stepping stone in the right direction. After the municipal polls are over and all the 58 municipal organs – one metropolis, four sub-metropolises and 53 municipalities – are manned by the people’s representatives, the general elections to the House will be held, and, thereupon, the elections to the VDCs will be held. This will complete the picture of popular representation at all levels of government.
However, the prevailing situation is volatile and difficult. On the one hand, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) is threatening to boycott the polls. On the other, the Maoists are taking physical action against the candidates. The killing of a candidate in Janakpur in cold blood and the shooting of a mayoral candidate in Patan are cases in point.
The Maoists are hell-bent on disrupting the municipal elections at any cost. The SPA is equally set for boycotting the elections. This is, perhaps, the first time in the history of the country after the reinstatement of multi-party democracy in 1990 that the electoral surroundings have been so chaotic and perilous.
Despite all such chaos and bedlam, the elections will not be stopped. It may be recalled that His Majesty the King, in his addresses, has declared his intention that peace be restored, corruption be controlled and democracy be institutionalised. In line with institutionalising democracy, the municipal elections are being held across the country. It needs no reiteration that elections are a means of strengthening democracy. The SPA, which has been in the streets agitating against the current government, has shown an anti-democratic attitude by boycotting the elections.
Yes, peace is a sine qua non in the current turbulent political situation. The agitating parties and some others are of the opinion that first peace must be restored and only then the municipal elections can be feasible. But it may be remembered that boycotting the elections cannot grind out a solution. The so-called understanding between the alliance and the Maoists hammered out in India has proved to be just a basket case. No solution to the political impasse has been found yet.
It is amazing that the agitating parties need the help of the Maoists, whom they declared terrorists while in power, to fulfil their vested interests. They are responsible for the political crunch the country is in. In the past, they could not put to good use the mandate given them by the people. While in power, they put their vested interests above national interests. The people have seen through their designs and so cannot be deceived now.
Now, the final list of nominees for various municipal posts has been released. And 22 municipalities, including Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, have local representatives who have been elected unopposed. There will be elections in only the remaining 36 municipalities. The number of nominations for the elections is shy of the required number. This shows that many municipal posts will remain vacant even after the elections. But this issue will be addressed through special arrangements after the elections are over.
Based on this, the SPA has said that the municipal elections have already been a flop. It may, however, be mentioned that registration of nominations took place amid fear and intimidation. The day of nomination was declared a bandh by the SPA so as to dissuade the aspiring people from registering their nomination.
Despite the strenuous efforts of the agitating parties at disrupting even the nomination process, the nomination process proceeded smoothly. That shortfall in the number of nominations is due to the constant threats made by the Maoists against the people aspiring to contest the elections.
The government has made ample arrangements for providing security for the candidates. Provision for insurance for them has already been declared. Three-pronged arrangements – before, during and after the elections – have been in place for both the candidates and voters.
The Maoists and agitating political parties must cotton on to the fact that contesting the elections and voting are the fundamental rights of the people. No one is authorised to stop the people exercising their rights. One can vote or refrain from voting of one’s own volition. Likewise, one can join the election fray or keep away from it of one’s own accord. But no one should make an attempt to strip others of their rights. Unfortunately, this is what the Maoists and agitating parties are doing right now.
It is the right of the agitating parties not to participate in the elections. But it does not behove them to disrupt the elections. Elections are the body and soul of democracy. The gradual holding of elections at all level of government will, for sure, put the derailed political situation in the country on track. The political parties know it better.
So all should extend cooperation from their respective fields to make the upcoming municipal elections a success so that the earnest intention of His Majesty the King of institutionalising democracy can materialize and the political deadlock obtaining in the country can be removed.
By Uttam Maharjan