Winds of change
Now that Nepal has had a fresh round of elections, it is expected that some order will prevail and the nation will start moving on the road to democracy.
Will the recent elections put an end to the uncertainty that has stalked the country for years?
Nepal has been governed by monarchs for hundreds of years. It has around 125 ethnic groups and many castes that constitute approximately 27 million people who do not see eye to eye when it comes to deciding the political future of Nepal.
After country’s transition from a monarchy to democracy, a Constituent Assembly was established to formulate the constitution but the legislative body spent all of its four-year term without completing the job. A second assembly has now been elected to do the needful
Nepal's second national elections since the abolition of the 239-year-old monarchy were held on November 19, 2013. They were hailed as a ray of hope for the nation that has been deprived of democracy for a long time.
The people of Nepal have yet not recovered from the scars of the decadelong civil war. A fragile economy, crippling power cuts, ethnic divisions and a deplorable security situation has further increased their problems.
There are expectations that the elections will give way to a peace process that will finally end the conflict which has caused much harm to Nepal. The newly elected, 491-member Constituent Assembly, which will also function as a parliament, is expected to draft a new constitution for Nepal.
The country has seen five government changes since 2008 when the outgoing Constituent Assembly was put in place. The recent elections
were supposed to be held last year but were delayed due to conflicts among political parties. Even before the November elections, 33 parties led by the CPN-Maoist of Mohan Baidya, decided to boycott the polls as their demands were not met.
The foremost demand was the formation of an interim government headed by a political appointee. It is another thing that they could not explain how such a setup would ensure transparency in the elections. The group also demanded a deferral of the elections till May next year.
The only demand that was somewhat acceptable was the resignation of Chief Executive Regmi from the post of chief justice. But Regmi refused and made it clear that he would hold on to his post.
The Baidya group also threatened that it would create havoc and chaos during the elections and since it had the potential to disrupt the polling process, it was decided to deploy the army during the polling.
A total of 61,000 army personnel were deployed while the army also formed a separate ‘Election Unit’ to meet the needs of the elections.
The decision to deploy the army did not go down well with the opposition parties. In fact, they pleaded with the UN not to support the army’s involvement in the election process as it would be against the peace pact.
The group also met the ambassadors of the European Union to raise this issue. In a statement issued on September 30, the UN demanded that an “inclusive election” should be held. But the opposition alliance openly declared that it would carry out ‘political and publicity’ campaigns and effectively and strongly boycott the elections.
This meant chaos, violence and riots.
Despite the deployment of the army and tightened security, the elections were marred by incidents of violence with bombs exploding in the capital, Kathmandu. However, voters came out in large numbers to participate in the polling process which was overseen by foreign observers.
Now that the polling is over, the main responsibility lies on the political parties, the government, its allies, the security forces and, above all, the masses to ensure that the newly elected assembly completes its task as only this can put an end to the uncertainty that has been surrounding the country for years.