Poll preparations: The question of electoral model

The eight-party alliance (EPA) has finally declared the month for the CA polls. However, this does not ensure the quality of the polls, which ought to be free and fair. The very day the decision was announced, the country faced another ‘bandh’ called by the aboriginals and ethnic people.

The agreement between the government and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) has raised certain basic questions on the modality of the election as well as the restructuring of the state apparatus. Although the announcement of an election month has given a sense of relief to all those who have been demanding it for quite sometime, the question of modality has been left undecided or it lacks consensus.

The working committee meeting of the Nepali Congress (NC) was right in reiterating that any question on which a unanimous decision has already been taken should not be raised over and over again. But as a democratic party, the NC leadership should have accepted that on issues where there was no unanimity and where a note of dissent had been formally recorded the dissenting party has the right to raise the issue whenever an occasion to do so arises.

The EPA had unanimously adopted the Interim Constitution (IC) but reservations had been expressed by the CPN-UML and later by Sadbhawana (Anandidevi) on the modality of election. This time other leftist parties have also joined hands with the CPN-UML. So on this issue serious consideration has to be given to national consensus. It is clearly mentioned in the agreement between the MJF and the government that the MJF favours proportional representation. The Janajatis too have been in favour of proportional representation.

The NC and its president and prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala have a great responsibility to promote national consensus on issues that may divide the nation. It is, therefore, necessary for the NC either to convince others on the merits of the mixed electoral system or give up its adamant stand and accept proportional representation. A national consensus cannot be arrived at only by talking separately with the stakeholders. This process is long and difficult. The EPA must be ready to sit together and listen to various agitating groups. It must no longer ignore the newly emerged organisations and show readiness to work together with them.

While the accord between the MJF and the government has to be welcomed, a grave question cannot be left unattended. The MJF has insisted on the right of self-determination. It seems the government negotiator (a minister and a senior NC leader) has accepted it. But what is the right of self-determination? So far we have been talking of a federal system in which all the component states/provinces/ regions will have full authority and control over their own destiny. However, the right of self-determination means “determination of one’s own fate or course of action without compulsion”. In a federal system there is a compulsion to remain a part of the nation but with full authority and control in administering the area. But the right of self-determination can go as far as breaking away from the nation, declaring an independent nation or merging with other nations. Either the negotiator did not understand the meaning of the right of self-determination or he took it lightly without considering its implications.

After the success of the Jana Andolan II a consensus seems to have emerged on the need for restructuring the state and a federal system. A federal system is a system of government in which the central government enjoys limited authority. Matters relating to local development and administration will be the domain of the local governments. In Nepal’s case, the formation of new provinces should be on the basis of language and ethnicity. Once such provinces are created the people of that area would have full control and authority over that part of the country. However, full control and authority does not amount to the right of cession. We are for a new Nepal where people of all castes, creeds, cultures and ethnicities would have full right to decide their destiny. But this should leave no room for disintegration.

The issue of electoral model is a vital question as it involves representation of the ethnics, Dalits, Madhesis, etc. So there is need for consensus on this issue. If there is a consensus on the model as stipulated in the Interim Constitution then the question of constituency delineation has to be revised. But if the consensus is in favour of proportional representation the nation becomes one constituency and so the question of delineation becomes irrelevant.

The questions of the nature of restructuring of the state and the electoral process have to be taken up seriously and all problems should be resolved quickly, otherwise the EC cannot make adequate preparation to hold elections in time. Any delay or further postponement of the election on any grounds would open the way for disastrous consequences.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister