For what it’s worth

The formal announcement on Sunday of a date for the constituent assembly (CA) elections is a historic event. November 22 was also the date, two years ago, when the 12-point agreement between the SPA and the CPN-Maoist was signed. This agreement formed the basis for the decisive Jana Andolan-2, which has given the present government the mandate to hold the CA polls and restructure the state. Many who have doubted whether the CA polls will be held can now probably feel an uplift of their spirits. All election laws, except the one relating to the constitutional court, which will be required at a later stage, have been passed. The Election Commission (EC) had declared that it was impossible to conduct the polls by mid-June, the timeframe that was incorporated even into the Interim Constitution, citing the lack of laws and of time. The two constitutional amendments have also been made to address the various issues having a bearing on the elections.

The CA polls provide a rare opportunity for the voters to build a Nepal of their imagination. But any failure to hold the polls again will be fraught with grave dangers. This time the public will not take any more excuses and buck-passing won’t do. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has shown the determination to fulfil the mandate of Jana Andolan-2. He has often gone on record saying, “The polls are my principal responsibility and I will fulfil it at any cost.” So, there is no need to doubt his commitment. But making the polls free, fair and credible is almost as important as the event of holding them. To this, the attention of all stakeholders should be directed — the EC, the parties, the government and the various agencies working under it, and no less important, the general public. Koirala also said yesterday that, within days, he would clear away the obstacles to the polls by sorting things out with the disgruntled groups.

A poor security situation at present poses the biggest threat to free and fair CA polls. There seems to be unanimity on this. Koirala has often pledged during the past months that with the setting of a poll date, he would deal firmly with all law and order problems. The public expects to see the results soon. Besides, it becomes the duty of all the political parties that act in the name of the people to draw up their poll agendas without delay. At least on the most important issues of the time, including monarchy v republic, those parties which have held their official views close to their chest — for instance, the Nepali Congress and the NC-D — should come out with what they stand for. Then only would the voters have enough time to chew on the comparative merits and demerits of the agendas of the political parties before they decide to cast their ballot. It would be best if the eight parties reached a consensus on vitally important national issues such as this. Even if this were not possible, the importance of keeping intact the alliance at least till the CA polls, and preferably, until the first post-CA general elections, can hardly be over-emphasised.