Show of restraint

Very few people now wonder whether the election to the Constituent Assembly will take place this Thursday. The misunderstanding between some of the political parties has led to a number of clashes across the country. However, the commitment expressed last week by the three major political parties — the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML, and the CPN-Maoist — to the polls and to help minimise violence has not been without its effect. Anyway, starting from midnight today, the poll campaigning will draw to a close, giving the voters seventy-two hours of quiet to ponder their options without any influence being exerted on them by political campaigners. And now, the polls are unlikely to face any major obstacle because of the actions of the political parties. However, the possibility cannot be ruled out of the anti-CA elements, including several tiny armed outfits in the Tarai, trying to make last-ditch attempts to disrupt the polls wherever they could, say, by detonating a few explosives of a minor kind here and there to scare away the voters.

But these are unlikely to cause major disturbances to the election. However, to ensure free and fair polls, it is necessary to curb violence. For this, the government says full security arrangements have been put in place. The police forces are shouldering the responsibility of providing security for the polls. Other measures like banning the movement of vehicular traffic for twenty-four hours during the polls and sale of liquors in view of the election are aimed at reducing the possibility of violence and some of the unhealthy practices that unscrupulous people might resort to by going from polling booth to booth on that day. Aerial patrols have already started as a further measure to boost poll security. Similarly, the traffic across the Nepal-India border has been tightened to aid peaceful polling. The importance of enforcing the election and general laws strictly to deal with troublemakers cannot be overemphasised. Even in the past, sporadic violence happened during each general election was held. Therefore, some violence, though undesired, may be expected. The main objective should, however, be to minimise the risk, and when trouble starts brewing, to nip it in the bud.

Here, the role of the political parties themselves is crucial. But given their frosty relationship during the campaigning, disputes and scuffles may erupt. But their duty is to ensure that a completely violence-free, or at least a relatively peaceful, election takes place, conveying a positive message within and outside the country. This would mark the completion of a vitally important phase of the peace process. The seven parties, in particular the Big Three, are expected to play their part with a high sense of responsibility in bringing the political transition to a successful conclusion. Though the present security situation leaves scope for improvement, it has come a long way from the alarming environment that prevailed not long ago. The restraint the parties need to exercise, especially on Thursday, will assume a great import for the success of this election, and hence of the peace process.