Play­ing Pranks with Polls

People's Review - - LEADER - BY P. KHAREL

Prime Min­is­ter Sher Ba­hadur Deuba, faced with suc­cess famine since he took of­fice, pa­thet­i­cally de­scribed the third phase of the lo­cal elec­tions as “a ma­jor achieve­ment”. He had very lit­tle else to stake claim in his fourth prime min­is­te­rial in­nings. If con­duct­ing elec­tions alone con­sti­tuted a “ma­jor” suc­cess story, any sane per­son can draw a fair con­clu­sion as to what state the coun­try has been re­duced to by po­lit­i­cal par­ties. But the topic this time fo­cuses on the qual­ity of the polls. Most news me­dia agreed that there was ram­pant vi­o­la­tion of elec­tion code of con­duct while the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion was re­duced to a pa­thetic sight. Chair­man of Na­tional Elec­tion Ob­ser­va­tion Com­mit­tee Surya Prasad Shrestha (former Chief Elec­tion Com­mis­sioner] and Hi­malaya Shumsher Rana, also lead­ing an elec­tion-re­lated NGO, made sharp com­ments on EC's “to­tal in­abil­ity” to im­ple­ment the code of con­duct. Shrestha de­scribed the EC as a “help­less shadow of the govern­ment” and raised ques­tions on the cred­i­bil­ity of the EC it­self. MOCK­ERY: The Deuba govern­ment's “com­plete dis­re­gard for the poll code of con­duct” re­flected the chaos. With barely a week re­main­ing for the Au­gust polls, Deuba in­ducted four mem­bers into his cab­i­net tak­ing the size of the cab­i­net to yet an­other record at 54. In re­sponse to the ob­jec­tions raised by the “se­ri­ously con­cerned” EC, Deuba was atro­ciously de­fi­ant: “I will ex­pand the cab­i­net fur­ther, if need be.” In fact, he added two more min­is­ters of state even as the last voters cast their votes on Au­gust 18, break­ing his own record for the third time for the largest coun­cil of min­is­ters. The EC protested the lat­est change, too, but Deuba govern­ment ig­nored it. News re­ports car­ried sto­ries on “the most abused” code of con­duct by govern­ment min­is­ters and po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Chil­dren were used in cam­paign ral­lies and Deuba and his co­part­ner Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal at­tended pro­grammes that mo­bilised chil­dren too. Wall posters, bike ral­lies and loud­speak­ers fea­tured in vul­gar dis­play of im­punity. Chief Elec­tion Com­mis­sioner Ay­o­d­hee Prasad Yad­hav said that ac­tion could not be taken against the prime min­is­ter, who is the ex­ec­u­tive. Mas­sive mil­lions of ru­pees are spent on “me­dia mon­i­tor­ing” and var­i­ous as­pects of elec­tion “mon­i­tor­ing”. But the nec­es­sary fol­low-up ac­tion was miss­ing ev­ery cen­time­tre of the way. SOAR­ING COSTS: Lo­cal elec­tions also proved to be be­yond the reach of peo­ple of mod­est eco­nomic means. It is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for an hon­est can­di­date to throw his or her hat in the ring. Re­ports poured in with as­sess­ment that mil­lions of ru­pees were spent by can­di­dates in breach of the ex­pense ceil­ings. Vul­gar dis­play of money, flout­ing of elec­tion code and overt in­tim­i­da­tion of of­fi­cials at var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions if they did not ex­pe­dite the files of in­di­vid­u­als con­sid­ered to be in­flu­en­tial with pock­ets of vote base. All this was not an ex­cep­tion wit­nessed in the lat­est elec­toral ex­er­cise. In March, when the CPN (Maoist Cen­tre) supremo headed the coali­tion cab­i­net with Nepali Congress as the main co-part­ner, The Repub­lica daily ed­i­to­ri­alised: “The Elec­tion Com­mis­sion has been guilty of many er­rors of omis­sion and com­mis­sion since the Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal govern­ment an­nounced lo­cal elec­tions on Fe­bru­ary 20. It mys­te­ri­ously de­cided to de­lay im­po­si­tion of elec­tion code of con­duct till a week af­ter the an­nounce­ment of elec­tion, thereby al­low­ing the po­lit­i­cal par­ties in govern­ment to trans­fer CDOs and top po­lice of­fi­cers, with a clear in­tent of in­flu­enc­ing the elec­tion. Its com­mis­sion­ers have also been eerily quiet even as min­is­ters have il­le­gally al­lo­cated mil­lions of ru­pees in de­vel­op­ment funds to their home districts, again in vi­o­la­tion of the code of con­duct.” As per prior agree­ment, Da­hal quit of­fice af­ter the sec­ond phase elec­tions and made a big show of “abid­ing” by his com­mit­ment to hand over the reins of power to Deuba who had be­gun to lose pa­tience when the co-part­ner ini­tially did not show en­thu­si­asm to the ac­cord on chang­ing of ba­ton. BIG WASTE: De­spite the much ado by EC about voters' ed­u­ca­tion, the over­all per­cent­age of in­valid votes was stag­ger­ingly high. It was re­ported that as much as 20 per cent votes cast in Kath­mandu Met­ro­pol­i­tan City were found in­valid in spring. The per­cent­age of in­valid votes for the en­tire Kath­mandu district stood at 16.23 per cent, i.e., cov­er­ing all ten mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Now that lo­cal elec­tions have been con­ducted for the first time in 20 years, the is­sue is how ef­fec­tively well will the lo­cal bodies func­tion. Their coun­ter­parts at the na­tional par­lia­ment have been far from im­pres­sive, and hence they might make a case for their own de­fence by say­ing that they have not had ex­pe­ri­ence for a whole gen­er­a­tion. The lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives can at­tribute their fail­ures to “the tran­si­tion” pe­riod im­posed by 20 years with­out elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, for which the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties were the cause. Lo­cal bodies that have al­ready be­gun work­ing since five months seem lost, with dis­heart­en­ing per­for­mance. Street pol­i­tics is very dif­fer­ent from the task of ac­tu­ally de­liv­er­ing ser­vices to peo­ple. We should know more of this in the en­su­ing months.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nepal

© PressReader. All rights reserved.