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.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Asma Sid­diqui The writer is a free­lance jour­nal­ist who con­trib­utes pieces on so­cial is­sues.

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.

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