Late demands

The clouds that appeared to hang over the November 22 constituent assembly (CA) elections have darkened with the Maoists’ 22-point demand and their suggestion for the deferral of the polls by five months, if need be. In an interaction with the press on Friday, Maoist chairman Prachanda said postponement would be better than “Panchayati-style elections” or “Bihari-style republic”. The NC and the CPN-UML have criticised the Maoists for their present stance. CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal urged the Maoists “not to run away

from the polls”, adding that any postponement would be “unacceptable” to his party. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala reiterated, soon after Prachanda’s statements, his commitment to hold the polls on schedule. However, Prachanda in a statement on Sunday said that the media “misquoted” him “out of context”, thus giving the impression that the Maoists favoured the postponement. The Maoists maintain that the CA polls held without fulfilling the 22-point demands would have little meaning.

It would have been far better to hold the CA polls in the last scheduled month, June. Somehow, that could not be done. Another postponement will send an even more unfavourable signal to the sovereign people. In such a situation, everything possible needs to be done to hold the polls. The Maoists have given the government and the SPA until September 17 to address their demands, which they claim will “ensure free and fair polls”, or else they will start a “people’s movement”. The Maoists’ new demands, particularly on such already agreed points as mixed electoral system and the CA deciding on the monarchy’s fate, have come rather late, as there remain only 86 days to go for the CA polls. So, the call from various quarters for the Maoists to seriously reconsider their demands is quite sensible.

The polls should be conducted on the set date. However, as the chief election commissioner said the other day, while the EC’s preparations may be complete, the level of political preparations does not seem to have injected any enthusiasm or confidence into the electorate. The government has not, for instance, resolved the demands raised by the various agitating groups across the nation, and its potential impact on the polls needs to be assessed. Nor has any political party gone to the villages to kick off its election campaign. Sad to say, not all the parties in the eight-party alliance have made their stands clear on such vital issues as republicanism v monarchy. At any rate, the CA polls must not be held hostage. Probably, the Maoists will settle for less if their vital concerns or doubts are addressed. For instance, a formal and clear commitment from all the parties on the question of the monarchy could pacify them on their key agenda. On other issues, too, discussions at the eight-party meeting could go a long way, particularly where commitments have already been made and where the nature of demands appears helpful to the holding of credible CA polls. Accusations and counter-accusations alone will not help find any solution.