New momentum

The electoral tempo has picked up further momentum after the clearing of apparently the last hurdle to the election to the Constituent Assembly — the agitation in the Tarai — and the subsequent submission of their closed lists of proportional candidates by over a dozen political parties, including various Tarai-based ones. For the first time, the Nepalis are going to craft their own constitution through their elected representatives. Even those who had been betting on the very low probability of the election’s taking place on April 10 now seem to be revising their earlier prediction. This is a highly encouraging sign, as the election is central to fulfilling the mandate of Jana Andolan II and the specific commitments of the political parties on building a New Nepal based on the universally recognised principles of good governance. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the top leaders of the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist, among others, have been stressing that nobody can now obstruct the election.

The election is also necessary to end the long-drawn debate about the best political system for Nepal once and for all, because this unresolved issue for 57 years has cost the country dear. While the world has moved well ahead during these six decades, the Nepalis have been embroiled in the fight for their fundamental rights time and again. Whatever they had gained on the way had been taken away from them, forcing them to fight again, and the process went on. In the past, political leaders had assured, each time, that future generations would not have to fight for democracy again. There had been major flaws in the process and content of the compromised system each time. Against that background, too, the biggest electoral exercise in Nepali history holds enormous importance.

The April 10 election will also be the most widely and the most closely monitored and observed election in Nepal. Besides the UN, which has been invited to monitor the polls, a host of Nepali and international organisations are gearing up to assume the role of poll observers. While this places an added responsibility on the Nepalis - the political parties, the Election Commission, the security forces, the government and others - to ensure a free and fair election, the thick election-time presence of a large number of national and international organisations may be expected to be in itself a powerful shield against the danger of manipulation. This is another good sign, as credibility of the election and its legitimacy go together. Even the donors have made further aid commitments conditional on the CA election. A credible election requires, among other things, that all parties and individuals — big or small, of whatever persuasion, even the discredited royalists — should be free to go to the voters, travel to any part of the country, and campaign freely without any obstruction from anybody. It may be important for different people to support or oppose particular political parties or their agendas for different reasons, but what is of paramount importance is that the will of the people must prevail and be respected.