Nepal’s Municipal Voters Eager for Polls

Kathmandu, 31 Dec: People of 58 municipalities of the Kingdom of Nepal have been enthusiastically waiting to vote in the elections that were deferred for the past eight years, due to political turmoil created by the Maoist insurgency as well as due to the failure of the political parties to address the problems.

During all these years, the local bodies were governed either by civil servants or by government nominees, thereby creating problems in undertaking development works for lack of people’s representatives.

It had been widely realised that this situation must come to an end and the vacant posts should be filled by people elected by the people themselves and not by those designated or nominated by the government.

The Election Commission is gearing up to hold polls on February 8, 2006, the government is ready to provide every necessary support, with security bodies ensuring proper security. At the same time, we hear of some political parties calling for boycotting the polls. They say that elections cannot be held and if held, they would not be free and fair, as according to them, the current government is not a constitutional one.

But what is clear is that they are not in a position to judge the government’s constitutionality. If they think the government is unconstitutional, they can surely go to the Supreme Court to test it. And, if they do not believe the Supreme Court either, what then would they believe at all?

Some quarters have raised questions as to why the municipal polls should be first, even though there are other problems emerging out of the absence of a parliament. They are even calling for holding the parliamentary elections. When they make such a call, they forget that they were the ones who said there was no atmosphere for holding parliamentary elections during all these years. Now, unlike while in power, they are demanding it now just for the sake of politicking.

The municipal polls are being held in the country in special circumstances. These polls were declared by His Majesty the King himself, as part of His Majesty’s roadmap to peace, and are being held to utilise whatever sense of security has been experienced since the February 1 Royal Move. In these circumstances, the municipal polls are of greater significance than in normal times.

The agitating seven political parties including the CPN- UML and the Nepali Congress, the major political parties of the dissolved parliament, have not only said they would boycott the elections, but that they would also actively obstruct the elections. As the Maoists, who are engaged in terrorist activities for the past decade and calling for an election to the Constituent Assembly, have already said they would do their best to obstruct the polls, we can see that the agenda of both sides has a commonality. This would mean that the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) of the political parties have the same goal. In this backdrop, the government would be compelled to take necessary actions to enable people to exercise their rights, against the Maoists and the SPA in a similar vein.

In such a situation, the SPA would have to show in what ways are they different from the Maoists, if they say that they are launching a peaceful agitation. By boycotting the elections, how democratic would they appear?

Finally, the elections are a reminder that the people have a sovereign right to choose their representatives, when they had almost forgotten the polls, as it has already been eight long years since they last voted.

The polls should be taken as something we urgently need for the development of the town, rather than to show the outsiders that we are democratic, as it is the matter of deciding ourselves, rather than becoming indecisive for years on the advice of foreign forces and those who themselves created the present turmoil.

(Bhattarai is senior editor at RSS)