POLITICS : Uncertain Course

Although CPN-Maoist leaders have agreed to negotiate on the elections, it is premature to say the election will be held on November 19

July 14, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No. -3 July 12- 2013 (Ashad 28, 2070)

Every day, some new obstruction against the proposed November 19 election is cropping up. The dispute over the constituency delineation is the latest one with enough strength to disrupt the forthcoming polls.

Although the Constituencies Delineation Commission has very limited constitutional right to restructure the constituencies, some Madhesh-based political parties and leaders of civil society demanded restructuring all 240 constituencies.

"We will not accept the constituencies, if they are not fixed on the basis of population," said Madheshi leader Upendra Yadav. Former speaker of House of Representative Daman Nath Dhungana supports Yadav’s argument. "If necessary, the constitution needs to be amended to address the genuine demands."

After formally announcing the willingness to start negotiations on the issues of CA elections with political parties, CPN-Maoist, which had taken a decision to boycott the elections, has shown some flexibility. Just a few hours before leaving to pay an official visit to China with his vice chairman C.P. Gajurel, CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya announced formation of a team to negotiate with four major parties on elections

The duo left for Beijing on a five-day visit on the invitation of the Communist Party of China (CPC). “It’s a party-level visit. Chairman Baidya will hold talks with senior leaders of the Chinese communist party,” said CPN-M Secretary Netra Bikram Chand.

Leaders of four major political parties are able to pursue the Maoist line in the negotiating table. However, they don't know how to settle the differences over the constituency delineation issue, which is more sentimental than ideological. 

"We have decided to start negotiations on the ground that leaders of HLPC agreed to amend the 11-point agreement and 25 point presidential decree," said CPN-Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal.

Setback in Elections

At a time when the government and the Election Commission are moving ahead for election preparations, lack of Electric Voting Machines has created problems.

India expressed that it was unprepared to supply EVM as Nepal required EVMs with more than 64 voting buttons. However, the existing EVMs developed in India have only 64 buttons.

As per the Commission's decision to use EVM in 119 constituencies of 23 districts, the EC wants 20,000 EVMs for the CA election.  Chief Election Commissioner Nil Kanth Uprety told that this subscribe that it may crate the problems. The commission has been holding dialogues with various stakeholders on the issue of Election Code of Conduct and fixing the election symbols, looking at 361 parties registered with the Commission.

Chief Election Commisssioner Neel Kantha Uprety said that voter registration is likely to be completed next week and the commission will issue notice to implement the Election Code of Conduct. So far as election observation is concerned, it is unlikely to see many international observers this time around.  Chief Election Commissioner Uprety said that the commission is now looking at various election observer modalities practiced in different parts of the world.

International Factor

Although the United States and western democracies have already agreed to provide necessary support to the CA elections, they are not liked to be deciding on Nepal's internal politics. Whether one liked it  or not, ultimately Nepal's two neighbors India and China, which are more influential in Nepal's internal politics, will be decisive in the last minute.

The Visiting Chinese vice councilor recently expressed support to Nepal's elections process by providing Rs.150 million dollars for the Election Commission.  Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi expressed that China wishes a smooth operation for the Constituent Assembly election in Nepal, an early date to complete the constitutional process and long-term stability, prosperity and development of the country.

India's external affairs minister Shalman Khurshid also reiterated India's support to coming elections. India even agreed to provide 746 vehicles to Nepal Police and ballot boxes to elections commission. "We want to see the elections in Nepal.”

However, diplomacy is not a straight forward game. One has to wait to see how their action will materialize in reality.

Security Assessment

At a time when the Election Commission and government have been making efforts to hold the elections on November 19, the high-level security committee meeting presented a report to the government saying that CPN-Maoist party is unlikely to obstruct the elections as it claimed. A senior official at the Ministry told that the assessment made by Nepal Police all over the country indicated that CPN-Maoist does not have such a nationwide capability to disrupt the elections given the commitment of major political parties to contest the elections. The committee also recommended holding the election in single phase to weaken the Maoist strength.

Internal Dynamics of Parties

Along with other factors, the internal dynamics of major political parties will also make differences. As the elections are coming closer, about two dozen armed groups in terai have already started to unify. The unification of armed groups can make a lot of difference.

Internal feud in UCPN-Maoist is at the peak following the resignation of vice president Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. He announced that he will not aspire for any position, including that of prime minister to pave the way for the new generation.

Nepali Congress is also passing through similar situation, witnessing a growing difference between NC president Sushil Koirala and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Samyukta Madheshi Loktantrik Forum is bitterly divided. Internal feud in CPN-UML is also high between party president Jhalnath Khanal and leader K.P.Sharma Oli.

As top leaders of four major political parties are harping on the election agenda, privately nobody prefers elections in November given their internal dissensions.

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