Pratibedan Baidya: The count-down has started for the proposed election of the constituent assembly but there is very slim change for election taking place as all the major political parties have been concentrating on their own agenda rather than working for creating conducive environment for elections.
There are various factors which leads that the election will not take place in November 19 as proposed by the Chief Justice led government. The government and the Election Commission have been working hard to hold the elections at the stipulated time but the key in the hands of political parties. The dissolved constituent assembly could not deliver new constitution as the major parties did not forge consensus on some key issues like the forms of federal states, governance system among others. These issues are still unresolved so there is doubt about the new constituent assembly completing the task of drafting new constitution even if the election took place at the stipulated time. There are some issues which are likely to create hurdles for the CA poll taking place on November. Some of the reasons are as follows:
Opposition from Political Parties and factions: The Alliance of 33-political parties has been opposing the elections announced by the Chief Justice led election government. They have been demanding annulment of 22-point agreement reached among four major political parties to form the Chief Justice led government and formation of the partisan government by holding the round-table conference. However the four major political parties have been saying that they will not accept the demand of dissolving the Chief Justice led government and postponing the elections of the constituent assembly. Although the agitating parties have shown positive gesture towards talks but they are yet to start dialogue and settle the differences as they have quiet opposite views. According to CPN-Maoist Secretary CP Gajurel the election would not take place on November even if the government and the agitating parties reached into consensus as the time would be too short to resolve all the issues.
The CPN-Maoist led alliance has also declared protest programs against the elections. They have warned that they would take physical action if anyone is found involved in publicity of the election. Not only the alliance of 33-political parties, Upendra Yadav led Madheshi Janadhikar Forum and Ashok Raj led Federal National Socialist Party have been opposing the elections. They have been demanding to increase the seats under Proportional Representation System, delineation of election constituencies and also to provide voting rights to the persons not having citizenship card among others. They have publicly expressed anger over the government holding dialogue with the alliance of 33 political parties and not with them. Changing the seats under proportional and FTFP system could not be acceptable to the major parties as well. It would be a daunting task for the government and the leaders of four major political parties to convince them to come to the talks and it is unlikely to be settled sometime very soon.
Constituency Determination and other electoral disputes like the registration of opposing parties: Another major obstacle is delineating the constituencies. As the commission formed to delineate the constituencies failed to finalize the issue, the four major parties formed a task-force to resolve the issue. The recommendation from the task-force may not be acceptable to them. The political parties seem neglecting the recommendation from experts, which might have some implication for the future as well. The government recently expanded the tenure of the commission by 10 more days but the commission would not complete its task before the major political parties find consensus on it. The political parties are yet to settle disputes related with voter’s registration list. Over five million voters have not registered at the Election Commission for the purpose of CA poll and the Madhesh based parties have been demanding that all eligible voters should be registered even if they do not have citizenship card, which is a must for registering as an eligible voter so far. The Supreme Court has also asked the Commission not to register people in the voter registration if they do not have citizenship card. The Madhesh based parties have been opposing the verdict of the Supreme Court as well.
Similarly, the political parties associated with 33-party alliance have not registered at the Election Commission for the purpose of upcoming elections. Even if they agree to take part in the elections, the Election Commission has to re-open the registration process of political parties, which might hamper the time table of the election commission. The Election Commission said it needs three months time for making necessary preparation for the election. Under the present situation, the government and major parties are yet to hold dialogue with the disgruntled parties and bring them on board before deciding the fate of November election. Even if everything goes well the Election may not take place in November to settle all the administrative issues. The Election Commission has already made public the elections calendar, so, adjusting the election calendar may affect the electoral process. Chief Election Commissioner has already made it clear that it would be difficult to hold the election on November 19 if consensus was not formed by Mid August but there seems very slim chance of finding such consensus within half month as the political parties have not started formal talks yet and they have very complicated issues to resolve. Chief Election Commissioner Nil Kantha Uprety has said that the election may not be possible on November 19 if all the issues were not settled by Mid August as EC has to enter into second phase of preparation from August 20 to ensure CA poll on November 19.
UCPN-Maoist and major parties not willing for polls: All the major political parties have been passing through intra-party rift, so, they seem not in a mood of going to the election any time very soon. Despite their repeated commitments that they are interested to go for the elections they are not prepared for it. The UCPN-Maoist, which was the largest party in the dissolved constituent assembly, has decided to go for single leadership following the dispute within the party. The UCPN-Maoist suffered party split while many senior leaders of CPN-UML deserted the party, so, both the parties are not very interested to go for the polls although they have been reiterating that they are ready to go for polls. One leader of CPN-UML on condition of anonymity said that the election would not take place unless the UCPN-Maoist becomes ready for polls and the party is not ready for the same at the moment. The party, which is trying to lure senior leaders from different political parties, to cover up the loss from the split of Baidya faction, has been trying to prolong the election so that it will be better prepared to win more seats in the election. UCPN-Maoist leaders are of the view that if the election was postponed for some time they can recover from the groupism within the party and also the split of Baidya faction. UCPN-Maoist has deployed its senior leaders into the election constituencies for creating environment for poll but their basic responsibility would be to measure the position of party in particular constituency. Based on the reports presented by these leaders, the party will evaluate its position in the upcoming election of the constituent assembly and will determine the future political discourse.
Other political parties like Nepali Congress and CPN-UML are also not very interested to go for the elections as these parties have also been facing intra-party feud. Despite pointing fingers to each other for not being prepared for the elections, most of the major parties have not been preparing themselves for the election. They do not seem positive about the dissenting group agreeing for the election and election taking place in November this year. According to political analysts rather than creating environment for holding the elections the political parties are now engaged in a plot to form government under their leadership after toppling-down the Chief Justice led government after not holding the election in November.
Political parties not convinced about drafting the new constitution: The four-year long constituent assembly dissolved without promulgating the new constitution as the leaders failed to forge consensus on some key issues like the form of governance and federal states. These two issues remain same, so, the political parties are not confident that the new constituent assembly would be able to resolve these issues and draft the new constitution by the new assembly. Otherwise the new assembly would also be the futile effort and waste of resources.
Way Forward: It seems that despite their lip-services the political parties are not committed for November poll. If postponed for any reason the poll will take place in March / April next year. However we should not hurry for elections rather we should create environment for holding the credible environment for holding the elections in a free and fair manner, so that all side feel ownership on it. The political parties should find consensus on the contentious issues of the constitution and if they failed to find consensus, referendum should be done on these issues along with the CA poll. While doing so it will save the time and resources as the country will move towards deep crisis even if the constituent assembly fails to draft the constitution.
There is no alternative of holding the elections of the constituent assembly to bring the derailed democracy into track. However some thorny issues of the constitution like the form of governance, federal states among others should be decided before hand or referendum should be done in these issues during the elections of the constituent assembly. Otherwise the new constituent assembly would not give any result like in the past. The political parties should rise above from the partisan interest to give political outlet to the country otherwise they will be overthrown by the people’s power. They should learn lesson from the history and correct themselves before it is too late as they can’t make Nepali people fool all the time.
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