Election outcome : A vote for peace and development

The Constituent Assembly election is finally over and its outcome has surprised many political pundits, main national political actors and politically active International Community (especially India and the US). But the clear mandate is for peace, change and development. The Maoists have emerged the dominant political force with 220 seats in the 601-member CA. As per the Interim Constitution (IC), which requires a two-thirds majority for both formation and dissolution of the government, it is clear that neither the Maoists on its own, nor other parties without the backing of Maoists, will be able to form a new government. Thus if there were no consensus between the parties represented in the CA, we would end up in an impasse. Perhaps, the IC needs to be amended to replace the current two-thirds provision with a simple majority.

National and international communities are pondering how the Maoists, who would apparently be happy with 40-50 seats in the 240-member first-past-the-post (FPtP) arrangement, managed to garner a whopping 120 (50%). The Maoists did not fare as well in the proportional representation (PR) with slightly less than 30% of total votes. In a way, other political parties must thank Maoists for postponing November elections demanding the replacement of mixed electoral system by a fully PR system and thereby making changes in the IC and increasing the seats in the PR system from 50% to 58%. This enabled small parties to be represented in the CA. The poll outcome was the result of a combination of factors: lack of security and threat perception among voters (thanks to the strong-arm tactics of YCL and non-existent home ministry); people’s desire for change in political leadership; Maoists’ superb mastery of election tactics including the art of effective use of 3 Gs (guns, goons and greenbacks), and finally, people’s desire for peace at any cost.

People are not very concerned about who governs but how the country is governed. If the new government (rightfully, Maoist-led) were to provide, inter alia, peace, security, development and social justice and if the Maoists were committed to genuine adoption of multi-party competitive polity, people could vote them to power again. Herein lies the great challenge for the Maoists and other political parties. Building a new Nepal needs commitment to work under a new set of paradigm that puts national interest above party interest than simply abolishing monarchy and establishing a republic and hoping for a miracle. It is however pertinent to ponder over the future of the nation with Maoists at the helm. The liberal view is that the Maoists genuinely want to be a part of multi-party competitive politics and would embrace the ethos and behaviour required for this change. The conservative view would hold that the Maoists have only participated in the current democratic exercise as a strategic move and would revert to their professed ideology of proletariat dictatorship whenever the opportunity arises. Whichever might be true, other political parties need to be vigilant for “Vigilance is the price of liberty”.

While it is important that other political parties cooperate with the Maoists, the Maoists must make some compromises too. If they are to keep the Home Ministry to themselves, they must be willing to disband YCL — which has been a catalyst for our deteriorating law and order situation. The international community must provide required funding and expertise for massive retraining of YCL cadres who seem to possess scant employable skills other than muscle-flexing. Another vital issue raised by the Maoists is their demand for wholesale integration of People’s Liberation Army with the Nepal Army. This has raised serious questions regarding the political independence of Nepal Army.

Furthermore, the Nepal Army is a professionally trained outfit which has proved its combat mettle, whereas the strength of the people’s army seems to be its revolutionary zeal backed by ideological fervour rather than its combative excellence. Under these circumstances, it would be wise not to carry out wholesale integration of the two but to absorb the personnel of the PLA by creating a separate Border Security Force or an industrial security unit. The Maoists would do well to concentrate on rebuilding the nation and boost social and economic development and leave defence and home ministry to other political parties such as NC and CPN-UML.

In the end, it is hoped that political parties would respect people’s desire for peace, change and development and rise to the occasion by adopting a new paradigm that embraces delivery of better governance, inclusive democracy, rapid economic development and social justice through mutual co-operation on matters of national interest and their own parties’ institutional strengthening so that they are able to exercise internal democracy and provide enlightened and visionary leadership.

Thapa is NC Mahasamiti member