TOPICS: Election in old style

Nepal is a wonderful country that keeps on getting back to square one. It appears true, at least, in the electoral field that is of prime public concern today. After practicing all kinds of elections under most dictatorial to most democratic systems over the last 60 years, we seem to have come back to where we started. We started, historically speaking, from Padma Shamsher. The predicament the government is facing in getting the municipal elections accomplished in 2006 is actually reminiscent of similar difficulties encountered by the Rana regime in completing the first elections held coincidentally in 2006 BS.

The constitution of that time provided for a State Legislature, which consisted of His Highness the Maharaja (the prime minister) and two Chambers to be known as the Rashtra Sabha and the Bharadari Sabha. The Rashtra Sabha comprised not less than 60 and not more than 70 members. The Bharadari Sabha consisted of not less than 20 and not more than 30 members, nominated by His Highness to represent as far as possible the chief national interests and activities. The legislature was created as a permanent body not subject to dissolution, but one-fourth of the members were to retire every year and new members elected or nominated. The Rashtra Sabha (Lower House) was to represent the interests of different sections. In the House of 70, 42 were to be elected and 28 nominated.

There is no doubt that the 1990 Constitution is far more progressive compared to the old legislature. Similarly, the local bodies are much too advanced in terms of democratic values and structure. But the way the poll for the municipalities is being forced down the throat of the people they do not look much different from each other. If we go through the accounts of the Chief Election Commissioner of those days, we will see how close they come to the current context. Chief Election Commissioner Subarna Shamsher JB Rana presided over the elections and submitted a report to PM Mohan Shamsher in 1950 giving an account of the conditions under which he conducted the elections.

Subarna Shamsher, in his report, said, “Only five nomination papers were received for two posts to be elected; and out of five persons three were reluctant to contest. Consequently, two persons were elected unopposed.” Now, the Election Commissioner of 2006, Keshabraj Rajbhandari, in his statement, said, “For the 57 posts in the Baglung municipality, only 12 nominations were filed. Only 12 persons contested 14 Bharatpur wards. Only 30 filed candidature for 57 posts in Bidur municipality. Less than 40 candidates have registered for the 97 posts in Mahendranagar. In Butwal, no one contested for deputy mayor’s post.” (THT Jan. 27)

Rajbhandari added, “In Kathmandu, nobody has stood for office in three wards — 23, 24 and 32. There is no candidate in nine wards of Kirtipur municipality. In Patan, three wards viz. 7, 9, and 11 have no candidate. The EC will announce other dates for filing candidacy in municipal wards where no one has filed.” (TKP Jan. 27)