CA polls - Will it be possible on time?

As the deadline of mid-June is getting closer, the possibility of holding constituent assembly (CA) polls on time is getting smaller. Common people have started to speculate about the postponement of the polls, even as political leaders make new commitments every day. One fails to understand the reason for the delay in preparation for the election.

Peace processes are never fast. It takes considerable time to attend to and settle all issues. This peace process was a set back from the very beginning with the delay in signing of the comprehensive peace accord. Again, there was delay in approving the interim constitution and in the formation of the interim legislature. All these processes were completed behind the schedules agreed upon by the two sides. One of the reasons was the delayed beginning of the management of the Maoist army in cantonments, which required the UN mission to verify and count their arms.

Sometimes, it seems as if the election to the CA was never a real option to help solve the armed conflict. It was rather a pseudo-goal that every party trumpeted to suit its political ends. For instance, the Maoists needed to bring their underground cadres in contact with the urban people. These cadres are now living in the capital and other district headquarters and in contact of the elites. Similarly, the major political parties, which were not allowed to visit their villages by the Maoists, are now able to move about freely and reach their support base. The plan of CA election provided them a suitable pretext to come together in order to fight and finish the institution of monarchy.

Now, the political spectrum has changed drastically. The interim legislature has been formed with the inclusion of the 83 Maoist nominees without any election. Similarly, the Nepali Congress, the Nepali Congress (Democratic), and the CPN-UML got 85, 83 and 48 seats respectively. The political parties also succeeded in getting their senior colleagues (who were defeated in the last general election) nominated to the interim legislature. All other fringe parties except the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party also managed to get their shares in the interim House without a hitch.

Moreover, the NC had its leader elected the prime minister and head of the state, while the CPN-UML managed to bag the post of the speaker of the House. Similarly, the NC(D) got the post of deputy speaker of the House (the same person who had been enjoying the facilities of the post uninterruptedly for last seven years even when the HoR remained dissolved). The other parties too got their shares of the ministerial berths. Now, consultations are on to accommodate the Maoists as well.

The Maoist showed their sincerity by depositing over 3,000 arms. They could have deposited only 300 in place of 3,000, claiming that their 12-year-long armed revolution was largely supported by small and handmade weapons.

In reality, the political parties are not telling the people that they do not favour election to CA in the near future. It seems that the government feels that if the home minister resigns, the whole country may go to dogs. Therefore, the people should understand that they are fooled by none else than their own leaders.

We are in a very precarious position. The interim constitution has made provisions for the most complicated electoral system. People are at a loss to understand the attachment of

the NC and the NC(Democratic) for the mixed electoral system, when about 40 per cent of the voters are illiterate. Equally baffling is the Maoists’ fascination with the display of arms, which can in no way be interpreted as conducive for free and fair elections. Similarly, precious time is being wasted that could have been utilised for amending different laws related to election in order to facilitate the electoral process.

Interestingly, the most crucial issue — which mixed electoral system is to be adopted for the CA elections — has not been attended to as yet. Talking about holding elections without determining the electoral system is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Significantly, the issues of Madheshis and the indigenous nationalities are getting scant attention of the government. This can be easily inferred as no serious dialogue has taken place in this regard as yet. And due to the continued transport strikes and bandhs, the electoral process seems impossible to start.

It appears as if the government still believes that it can suppress the agitation with an iron hand. If this is the case, then the government is making a big mistake by underestimating the strength of the masses, as was done by the King last April. As we are fast running out of valuable time, the day when the Constituent Assembly election is declared postponed till next October or November might not be far off.

Prof. Mishra is ex-election commissioner