Uncertain Polls

Many would be inclined to agree with Mr. Nepal’s assertion that thorny issues left unresolved within the timeline of one year should be put to referendum, but there could be differences on the issues to be tested. It would be difficult to exclude iss

Aug. 9, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No. -5 Aug. 9- 2013 (Shrawan 25, 2070)

Notwithstanding smart work of the Election Commission and preparedness shown by the current dispensation to organize polls in November, people are still uncertain about it because no meaningful positive political development has taken place to reduce their level of skepticism. On the contrary, CPN Maoist officially launched a campaign to disrupt the polls, which began with the destruction of a mock ballot box by the party’s general secretary in Kathmandu and mobilization of its cadres in nook and corner of the country to obstruct election related activities. In a democracy, an individual or a party can boycott elections but an attempt to forcibly foil the election is a crime to be taken very seriously by those in charge of maintaining law and order in the country. Having experienced their use of force in the past to attain their short and long term goals, helpless Nepalis have no reason not to take seriously their threat to disrupt the November polls by hook or crook. In addition to this threat of the firebrand Maoists, the commission charged with the delineation of constituencies could not complete the task on time and has already been granted extension twice.  Not much time is left for the polls and people do not know how much time will be required to short out technical matter as well as inter and intra-party wrangling. These are the reasons for growing skepticism. However much may people remain doubtful, the Election Commission has made public the two-month long election programme and the government also seems to be making necessary arrangements and provisions for the new polls to C A.

The government on 14 July passed a full budget with a total outlay of Rs.517, which includes Rs.16 billion for the polls. The most disturbing aspect of our economy has been the deteriorating trend in the external sector and this is not likely to be arrested soon. It may be mentioned that Nepal’s total trade deficit last year(around Rs.450 billion) exceeded that year’s annual revised budget of Rs.370 billion. Low growth, high level of inflation and huge trade deficit will continue to persist in our ailing economy. In tandem with the budget, Nepal Rastra Bank unveiled its annual monetary policy, which intends to spur growth through availability of liquidity at reduced cost for productive ventures. The point to be noted, however, is that unproductive poll expenses and a pay hike of 18 percent are likely to further fuel already high level of inflation making it difficult for the monetary authority not to mop up liquidity from the market. Growth this year also is likely to remain below 4 percent. After the global meltdown of 2008 even emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, registering impressive growth for several years, have suffered a setback. It will be difficult for China to achieve the officially announced target of 7.5 percent and India will have to be satisfied with 5 percent growth in 2013.Likewise,the remaining two countries will have to settle at around half(2.5 percent) of what they achieved during the boom. The emerging giants such as China and India have slowed sharply now, but the fact to be noted is that during the boom period these countries have achieved considerable progress in alleviating poverty and creating wonderful physical infrastructures, especially in China, making good use of the wealth created. While China is said to have reduced its extreme poverty rate from 84percent in 198o to 10 percent now, India has also made commendable progress on this front taking out some 137 million Indians out of poverty in recent years. Although very much doubted and questioned within India, planning commission there claims that only 22percent of India’s population of more than 1 billion is below poverty line. The remarkable growth enabled authorities there to bring out annual budgets with a brighter human face each year. Interesting to mention here is the fact that the success in lifting 1 billion people out of extreme poverty during 1990-2010 was accounted for in large parts, 75percent, by China. India is expected to perform much better economically in achieving the global target of getting one more billion people out of extreme poverty in the next twenty years. Ailing US economy grew better (1.7 percent) than expected (1.1 percent) in the second quarter of this year and significant number of jobs were created in July to reduce the level of unemployment to around 7 percent. With exports to EU and China increasing significantly, US trade gap currently is at its lowest since October 2009. In our case, however, it seem we have put on hold economic progress of this country pending resolution of political problems.

Although Nepal is not likely to get into the kind of turmoil that Egypt is in today neither  Parchard’s YCLs are likely to soon battle Baidya’s poll-disrupting militants in the manner and fashion that ousted president Morsi’s supporters and opponents are clashing in Cairo, political problems do not show any sign of easing in Nepal, too. Even the November polls that many thought would provide solution is looking very uncertain with CPN Maoist and its allies(33-party alliance) torching copies of the Election Code of Conduct on 1 August in all the electoral constituencies and urging people to boycott the polls. Even if polls are held and the new CA is put in place, no one can guarantee that the major issues that created impasse in the last CA would be resolved soon. As a precautionary measure, therefore, a very apprehensive Madhav Nepal, Senior Leader of UML, wants the Interim Constitution to be amended to provide a time frame of just one year for constitution writing.Alternatively, parties could attempt to resolve contentious issues prior to polls basically to economize on time. Many would be inclined to agree with Mr. Nepal’s assertion that thorny issues left unresolved within the timeline of one year should be put to referendum, but there could be differences on the issues to be tested. It would be difficult to exclude issues related to Hindu religion and monarchy because RPP, Nepal and its chair Kamal Thapa is likely to get support of many others, belonging to other political parties also, who subscribe to the belief that the religion practiced by overwhelming majority Hindus has been sidelined under external pressure and the institution of monarchy unlawfully done away with. Note worthy is NC leader Sasanka Koirala’s opinion, in a recent interview with BBC Nepali programme, that doing away with  monarchy in haste was a mistake and it could be reinstated should the people so decide.  Should not the people get a chance to give their verdict on this sensitive issue? This is a question  difficult to answer at the moment. Let us hope all complicated issues are handled sensibly so that the sufferings of this nation come to an end soon. That the 33-party alliance of dissident group has begun talks with the High Level Political Committee is undoubtedly a positive signal and the concerned should not hesitate to show maximum flexibility to ensure effective participation of all disgruntled forces in the political process. Let us not forget we cannot move ahead politically and economically isolating established and recognized forces in the country.

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Rawal is former governor of NRB.

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