As Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is preparing to announce the general elections in phases, probably after the next cabinet meeting, a former chief election commissioner (CEC) and two former election commissioners have ridiculed his idea, given the “unfavourable” security situation. Saying that the government’s job is to provide security and logistics, leaving the rest of the electoral process to the Election Commission (EC), former CEC Surya Prasad Shrestha has stressed the need for the government to discuss the matter with the EC and reach a consensus on the issue with the political parties. Similarly, former election commissioner Biswo Man Shrestha could not even “imagine” the possibility of the polls and, according to former election commissioner Ram Chandra Poudel, elections now would be disastrous as both the political parties and the people are not yet ready for the polls.

There is no doubt that it is extremely difficult to hold free, fair and credible polls at present. At the same time, there is no better way of bringing the derailed Constitution back on track than by seeking a fresh popular mandate. Efforts to reach a consensus on the issue among the political parties are required, even to provide legitimacy to the polls. Besides, for Deuba, who has once been sacked for his inability to hold the promised polls, holding elections is a matter of personal prestige and announcing a date for the elections is the only way to justify his any further stay in power. Former EC functionaries have every right to express their views, but it is for the incumbents in the EC and the security agencies to say whether the polls are feasible.

Deuba’s claim that he has the backing of the international community on holding elections is largely true. They have expressed concern over the deteriorating human rights situation and the derailment of the democratic process. And the restoration of all these demoratic processes is impossible without elections. On Monday, for example, UN high commissioner for human rights Louise Arbour and UN diplomat Samuel Tamrat supported the government’s plan to hold the polls. The restoration of the date-expired parliament cannot be a substitute for the people’s fresh mandate. General elections cannot be made conditional on peace talks with the Maoists. The people cannot go on supporting the controversial use of Article 127 for a long time. To end this situation, elections are necessary. Let all the parliamentary parties sit together and come up with the best arrangements for holding the polls, inviting even international supervision, if necessary. In the absence of elections, the present political and constitutional impasse would continue for God knows how long.