TOPICS: Difficult road to CA elections

The Constituent Assembly (CA) polls will be an entirely new experience for the Nepalis. The mixed election system — combining elements of first past the post (FPTP) and proportional representation (PR) systems — has its own set of rules. The aim of CA polls is to gain popular legitimacy for nominal monarchy or republic. Anti-authoritarianism wave and fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe along with restoration of multiparty system (1990) in Nepal have turned people against this feudalistic institution of monarchy.

From another perspective, the performance of the political parties in the last decade shows that institutionalisation of democracy is yet to take place. It also shows that, in a heterogeneous political culture, the western templates cannot be transplanted directly. The Westminster model of parliamentary democracy has proved a great setback to Nepal.

In 1950, the people restored monarchy. The same people restored multiparty democracy in 1990 and 2006. As per the mandate of April Movement, rebels and activists of various parties who had lost the last general elections are now permitted inside Singh Durbar. The previous government wasted a year sans any achievement. The current coalition is doing no better.

The situation will only improve if the CA polls are successful at (i) preventing recurrence of the conflict, (ii) promoting political reconciliation, and (iii) initiating a process for democratising the polity. In an ethnically diverse society like ours, wrong election patterns are likely to aggravate ethnic tensions. The grievances of various groups should thus be addressed as the threat of renewed conflict is imminent.

The government is well aware of weak law and order situation and it has become clear that demobilisation of Maoist combatants and their reinsertion into mainstream society won’t take place before the polls. After two decades of political instability and a decade of war, it is no surprise that Nepali society lacks an institutional infrastructure for holding elections. Most VDCs don’t even have secretaries; the EC lacks adequate infrastructure; legislative parliament and cabinet are subordinate to eight-party alliance.

State restructuring is both setting up a structural design and empowering all sections of society. The agenda of restructuring is embedded in social reforms, economic and political uplift of the people and above all, equitable distribution of power and resources. Restructuring means transformation of the existing feudal order as well.

It is important that people feel polls are free and fair. Jorgen and Pall argue that ‘freedom’ entails freedom to participate in elections without fear and intimidation; voters be free to move, communicate, assemble, organise, vote and complain.’ Likewise, fairness signifies impartiality — all are treated equal and no person, group or political party enjoys an undue advantage.

Thus ground realities should be considered for setting up a credible government. A holistic paradigm can resolve the underlying problems of the Nepali society.