TOPICS : Reforms that CA polls call for

At this time, no issue is more talked about than election and electoral reforms. This is to be expected in a country where successive governments have been postponing CA polls for over five-and-a-half decades on one pretext or the other. But the momentum for CA elections gained ground only in the aftermath of Jana Andolan II, with CA polls proposed for June 2007.

Even though the date for CA election has been fixed for Nov. 22, 2007, doubts persist considering the deteriorating law and order situation. Amidst such speculation, the Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS), a research organisation, organised a two-day seminar in the Kathmandu Valley recently on “Issues and Challenges of Electoral Reforms in Nepal” in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), a research wing of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

During the deliberations, participated by over 90 personalities, including politicians, journalists, academicians, and women, plus representatives of Janajatis, Dalits and Madheshis, nearly everyone agreed that election was the only non-violent method for societal transformation. They noted that the most difficult part of election was to ensure inclusiveness while at the same time addressing the pressing demands of various agitating groups and defeating communal and reactionary elements.

It was felt that low turnout of the voters might denote people’s lack of commitment and trust in the electoral system and apart from the FPtP system, the adoption of proportional system was suggested. It was also felt that low level of understanding among the people about the mixed electoral system was a big challenge. In this context, the EC needs to initiate awareness programmes to help people understand the mixed electoral system and the technicalities involved.

Likewise, the Election Constituency Delineation Committee (ECDC) was viewed as a stumbling block to CA polls for lack of experts in the panel. The EC itself isn’t free of blame for its lack of transparency. Statistics reveal that the cost-per-vote in elections had been increasing. From a meagre Rs 10 during House of Representatives (HoR) election in 1991 the amount jumped to Rs 20 in 1994 and finally to Rs 27 in 1999. For the CA polls, the cost-per-vote is likely to shoot up to Rs 107.

Apart from EC, candidates and foreign agencies too spend a lot of money in the name of voters’ education. With the growth in election expenses, it is difficult for the poor, honest and deserving candidates to fight and win the elections as they cannot afford to pay for 3 G’s: Guns, gold and goons. The EC needs to monitor the flow of money during the election and devise strategies to punish those who do not follow the code of conduct. The seminar concluded: CA polls, conducted in free and fearless manner, could give a new lease of life to the nation; while failure to do so at the scheduled date might invite a larger catastrophe. The CA election is also important for its role in institutionalising the gains of the people’s revolution.