In just a little over two weeks time the first by-elections for six constituencies are going to take place. The timing for the by-elections is the same date that the Constituent Assembly elections took place, that is Chaitra 28. It may be worthwhile remembering that it is going to be the first election since Nepal was declared a federal republic. As the contention is limited to a few constituencies, the Election Commission (EC) will not have much difficulty in ensuring that the elections are held in a free, fair, impartial and peaceful manner. The run-up for the said polls has already begun with the candidates and their supporters on the campaign trail to woo the voters. It is a coincidence that the CA teams have also made their suggestion collecting missions throughout the country. This may have aroused the interest of the voters of the constituencies where the elections are to be held. This could raise the awareness of the people as to their rights and the choice of qualified candidates to represent them in the CA.
The most worrying part in the holding of any election is the security situation and the implementation of the code of conduct. So far, news filtering in from the constituencies concerned does not indicate any untoward event. However, considering the growing rift among the political parties, even the coalition partners, the security apparatus assigned to the said constituencies must remain extra vigilant lest the situation turns for the worst. It has also to be borne in mind that with the polls taking place in six constituencies, the concentration of affiliated party workers and supporters is bound to concentrate in the respective places. This would obviously mean that the security logistics has to be commensurate during the final countdown to the elections. In all the places where the elections are going to be held the competition is expected to be severe. Therefore, lessons can be taken from the student election wherein the student organisations affiliated with the top three political parties represented in the CA were the frontrunners. This has a meaning for the by-elections too. The parties have a point to prove about their popularity through the coming election.
An interesting side of the by-elections is that the EC is introducing electronic voting machines in all the six constituencies where the elections are to be held. It will be a platform to polish the experience gained by using such voting machines during the CA polls. It will also be a means to make rigging difficult so that the usual complaints of unfair means used by one or the other candidate will not be present. But the sophisticated technology for registering one’s vote will only be effective if the electronic voting literacy of the people is enhanced with greater interaction with the techniques involved. Looking at the confidence exhibited by the EC as regards the preparations it has made, the polls will be worthwhile observing. The thing to watch is the abuse of authority for influencing the poll outcome, particularly by the political parties represented in the government and the use of government machinery for the purpose. If the EC can be firm in making the political players obey the rules of the game, it would be an achievement.