In an uncertain political climate, the code of conduct for the Constituent Assembly election has come into force from July 22. According to the election laws, any violation of the code of conduct is punishable. The code of conduct is reminder to the political parties that only fewer than 120 days are left for the vote to happen.
Despite certain hitches, four major political forces are slowly and steadily bracing for the November 19 elections. UCPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and factions involved in the Samykta Loktantrik Madheshi Morcha have kicked off their campaign. However, they are yet to mobilize their workers in a decisive way.
Contrary to the mood of the four major political parties, the CPN-Maoist and its 33 allied parties, Upendra Yadav-led Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum- Nepal and Federal Socialist Democratic Party of Ashok Rai are effectively mobilizing their workers to boycott the elections. Given the present scenario, the people are waiting to feel confident over the November 19 CA election.
Although the High Level Political Committee, led by four political parties, invited the disgruntled parties to the negotiation table, the CPN-Maoist coalition has rejected it the request flatly. Even Yadav and Rai have demanded the resignation of care taker government before holding a meaningful dialogue.
"We are not against the negotiations. We want such negotiations should be meaningful and resulted oriented. There is no sense in talking about holding the elections on November 19. I don't think it can be held," said Upendra Yadav, leader of Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum Nepal.
The four parties have agreed to talk on demands of CPN-Maoist regarding organizing an all party roundtable to settle the political disputes, they have decline to discuss the postponement of election date beyond November 19. As leaders of the four major parties are pushing for elections and Maoist-led 33 parties are threatening to obstruct them, political confrontations are likely to increase in the coming days.
The CPN-Maoist gets bolstered in strength when Madhesh-based armed groups have also issued threat to disrupt the elections. Dozen of Madhesh based armed groups have already unified with an aim to oppose the elections. Given the present scenario, more violent confrontations and clashes cannot be ruled out. The Vaidya-led Maoist party has even asked the international community not to support the elections of CA without ensuring full participation of all political parties.
The Four Parties
Although uncertainties prevail, UCPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Madhesh-based major political parties are busy drawing outlines of their election campaign. The Central Committee meeting of the CPN-UML endorsed its political report asking its leaders to prepare the election plan. The party decided to focus its energy on CA polls while keeping aside intra-party issues for a few months to come. Despite internal differences, Nepali Congress leaders are unanimous in holding the elections on November 19. Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala has said that the election to the Constituent Assembly must be held on the stipulated date to free the country from political crisis. Similarly, Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba too backed Koirala by saying there is no alternative to elections.
Accepting the proposal for single leadership in the party, the extended meeting of the UCPN-Maoist central committee (CC) handed all powers to party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. UCPN-Maoist chairman Dahal called on his party leaders and cadres to concentrate on the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections so that the party secures a two-thirds majority.
The Election Commission has already made it clear that it is now moving to meet the November 19 deadline and making preparations on all fronts. Along with the completion of party registration and voters list preparation, the commission enforced the Election Code of Conduct 120 days before the election.
Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety said the commission is moving as per its own election calendar. Necessary acts have been promulgated through the ordinances while the EC has also passed the Election Regulations.
The Commission has already begun a study of the locations that would host the polling centers using the global position system (GPS) technology. The GPS technology will provide information about the centres´ geographical situation, security system, roads, electricity etc.
New Criteria For Observers
The number of national and international election observer organizations is likely to be reduced for the Constituent Assembly (CA) election scheduled for November 19 as the Election Commission (EC) has added new criteria for poll observers in a bid to raise the quality of the observation. According to Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety, the number of national and international election observer organizations can be reduced compared to the last CA polls, but the quality of observation will improve.
The constitutional body held discussions with representatives of five international and 22 national election observer organizations in order to listen to their opinions on the proposed new policy. These organizations had sent from 400 to 12,000 observers for the last CA poll.
According to EC officials, only 29 out of 148 election observer organizations had submitted before the EC their periodic and final reports of observations in the 2008 polls. The chief election commissioner made it clear that the constitutional body would not allow those election observer organizations that did not submit their periodic and final reports in the last CA poll as sought by the EC. As per the proposed provision, the EC will not allow national observer organizations that are not registered at the district administration office.
The government also proposed for mobilization of the Nepal Army in the elections. However, EC has not given any consent to the government. In the last elections, three tiers of security were deployed. Nepal Police was deployed inside the polling stations and the Armed Police Force (APF) formed the second layer while the third tier was manned by NA personnel. Nepal Police has informed the EC that it can deploy 43,552 personnel, while the APF has said it would deploy 24,000 personnel during the polls. Nepal Police wants 60,000 temporary personnel for the polls while APF wants 9,000.
The election is now a prestige issue for the political parties. To prove their legitimacy, the government and four political parties will push the election agenda and CPN-Maoist and other parties are likely to use all their strengths to disrupt the polls. In this scenario, more confrontations among the country’s major political forces are likely.
If political polarization further widens with violent clashes, the intervention of president Dr. Ram Baran Yadav will also be likely. As CPN-Maoist is forging alliances with all kinds of forces, including the former King, to oppose the election, and the government and four political parties are pushing for the elections, the showdown is likely before November 19.