Get ready

The Maoists have re-joined the Interim Government three and a half months after the Maoist ministers resigned over non-fulfilment of the CPN-Maoist’s 22-point demand, which the party had put forward as the ‘pre-conditions for free and fair polls’. The partners in the seven-party alliance (SPA) had insisted that the Maoists should be in government again because they could not think of holding successful constituent assembly polls without Maoist participation in transitional governance process. So far, so good. The SPA and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala have made a renewed public commitment to hold the election by mid-April, which is also only three and a half months away. The interim parliament has just passed the third amendment to the Interim Constitution to incorporate certain changes, including those in line with the 23-point agreement.

The government should not make any further delay in making the announcement, if it wants to avoid the risk of failing the new deadline. There are also suggestions from some quarters that the government should satisfy the remaining disgruntled groups. Government leaders say they have already started the process of dialogue. Even the chief election commissioner, Bhoj Raj Pokhrel, has pontificated that a new election date should not be fixed without addressing all dissenting voices. But it is the job of the political parties and the government to take care of these issues. The job of the Election Commission is to be at the ready to hold the election when the government wants it. The Election Commission should make clear to the government and to the public the stage of its election preparedness. It should publicly also spell out what conditions and requirements need to be met within what timeframes to enable it to organise the polls within the stipulated time. EC office-bearers would only be wasting valuable time and confusing the public by making speeches fit for politicians.

The EC should not give anybody the opportunity to call its integrity and intention in question, unlike what happened when it announced just a little over two months before the June poll deadline that it was in no position to hold the polls because of the lack of preparation, mainly on the government’s part. Then, to quite a number of people, it appeared that the EC had not opened its mouth because the Maoists were going to join the government — the timing of the EC announcement, two weeks or so following the Maoist induction into the government, had led to doubt. It will be good policy to try to win over any dissatisfied group by addressing those of their demands that are legitimate. But the election should not be held hostage to the outcome of such talks. If the government goes on trying to appease everybody, it may not be able to hold the election for another decade. Those who think that their agendas can click with the electorate can fight the elections, win seats, and influence the making of the constitution. Other democracies also resort to force to deal with obstructionists. The government would do well just to look at Nepal’s neighbouring democracies.