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CJ-led Government-14

Issue 25, June 23, 2013

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


The government has announced November 19, 2013 the date for holding elections to a second constituent assembly (CA) to complete the crating of a new constitution and then promulgating it. The government also has set up a commission on delineating constituencies based on the population census of 2010. The president also has issued the Constituent Assembly Members Election Ordinance. The Election Commission (EC) has been moving to holding elections in November. Protesting the announcement of the election date, the fronts headed by the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya, the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal, and the Federal Social Party had jointly shut down Nepal on Sunday, June 16, 2013. Other political parties have been happy to go to polls in November.


After the four-party political mechanism could not build a consensus on the threshold of votes for the proportional representation of political parties, on prohibiting the people with criminal background from contesting in the elections, and on the number of CA members, leaders of the four-party political mechanism turned over the responsibility for taking decisions on these matters to the Interim Election Council of Ministers (IECM). NC and CPN-UML wanted to have the threshold of votes for proportional representation clearly for excluding most of the ethnic people from representation to the CA. UCPN-Maoist and UDMF did not want to have the threshold. NC and CPN-UML have been not for allowing the politicians with criminal background to contest in the elections whereas UCPN-Maoist and UDMF have a soft spot for the criminal politicians. Concerning the number of CA members, UCPN-Maoist and UDMF wanted to go back to the previous provision for 601 members discarding the agreed number of 491. Leaders of the four parties did not step back from their respective stand on these issues. Then, the IECM decided not to have threshold, not to allow the people with criminal background to contest in the elections, and to have 491 CA members making the provision in the Constituent Assembly Members Election Ordinance.


Not setting the threshold of votes required for proportional representation means, small political parties will have a better chance of having representation in the CA. It reduces the representation of the large political parties. They would not be able to close the doors of the CA to the small political parties as would have been if the threshold were kept. NC and CPN-UML did not react to the decision of the IECM on not having the threshold rather quietly accepted it.


Convicted politicians did not have a chance to contest for the seats in a CA in the elections pursuant to the Constituent Assembly Members Election Ordinance. A number of politicians would be deprived of returning back to the CA as members. NC leaders such as Khum Bahadur Khadka, Govinda Raj Joshi, Niranjivi Wagle, Jayaprakash Prasad Gupta of one of the Madheshi parties, probably Agni Sapkota and Balkrishna Dhungel of UCPN-Maoist would not have a chance to be candidates in the coming elections. The Constituent Assembly Members Election Ordinance has made the provision for prohibiting the convicted persons of criminal acts from contesting elections for a life. Leaders of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF have been against such a provision whereas the leaders of NC and CPN-UML have been for it. This provision made in the Constituent Assembly Members Election Ordinance would make the political leaders in power to think twice before committing any financial or other crimes.


The number of the CA members has been reduced to 491 from 601 members in the first CA. The local media, civil society members, even politicians have been saying the 601 members of a CA have been too big for a small country like Nepal. NC and CPN-UML have been irritated by the presence of so many representatives of small parties and ethnic groups in the past CA. However, with the provision for the threshold gone, the number of representatives of small parties and ethnic groups would not decrease but the representation of the large political parties would decrease. NC and CPN-UML would have difficulties in garnering the votes of the ethnic people and Madheshi people, as these two political parties have stood against the interest of the ethnic people and Madheshi people.


The IECM has set up a commission on delineating constituencies based on the population census of 2010. A number of constituencies will be 240 for directly electing 240 representatives from these constituencies to the CA. The IECM has entrusted a former justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal to preside over the commission. The IECM also appointed geographer Netra Dhital, sociologist Damber Chemjong, expert in administration Dr Madhu Nidhi Tiwari to the members of the commission, and seconded senior civil service official Rajuman Singh Malla to the member-secretary of the commission. The IECM gave 30 days to the commission to complete the task of delineating 240 constituencies. (Source: gorkhapatra, June 24, 2013)


Voters would need to vote for a candidate to be elected directly from a constituency, and to a political party. Based on the number of votes each political party received, the EC would allocate to each political party participating in the elections a number of members to be appointed to the CA. Then, each political party nominates its representatives to the CA based on the votes each political party has received. Thus, another 240 representatives would be elected proportional to the votes the political parties would receive. The total number of elected representatives would be altogether 480: directly elected 240 and 240 indirectly elected. The president would nominate 11 members thus making 491 members of the CA.


One of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya had said that the announcement of the election date would be in fact the declaration of another war. So far, the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya had not declared the war, yet. It had jointly with other two fronts headed by Upednra Yadav of Madheshi Peoples’ Rights Forum-Nepal, and Ashok Rai of the Federal Social Party shut down Nepal on Sunday, June 16, 2013 causing a great loss to the nation and to the political parties that had shut down. If the political parties were to call such a nation-wide shutdown again and again Nepalis would not remain silent for long.


Almost all political parties except for the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya have registered at the EC for the purpose of elections. Most of the political parties would participate in the elections. Most probably, elections would be held without the participation of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya.


The EC held meetings with the political leaders first and then with the industrialists and civil society members to brief them on the timetable of the election process, and to receive their feedback. CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya did not attend the meeting. Most of the political leaders were happy with the progress made by the EC in preparing for the elections. Other members of the civil society advised the EC to hold elections impartially.


NC and CPN-UML needed to convince the leaders of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya of the need for participating in the elections. However, both these parties have been taking easy not trying to bring the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya to the election campaign. Some of the leaders of NC and CPN-UML have been saying that elections would be held even without the participation of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya. Other leaders of UCPN-Maoist, NC, CPN-UML, and UDMF have been saying that the justifiable or legitimate demands of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya would be met. What are the justifiable or legitimate demands? They did not explain.


CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya did not recognize the current IECM, 25-point Removing Constitutional Hurdles Ordinance, the four-party political mechanism, and the EC set up by the Constitutional Council. Leaders of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya wanted to scarp all these things done by the four political parties, and the president, and then call an all-party meeting of all political parties represented in the past CA, and form an all-party government to hold elections. They said that they were not against the elections but they would not allow holding elections in the current situation.


Certainly, the four-party political mechanism was not for meeting all these demands put forward by the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya. However, some of the leaders of NC have been saying that they could meet certain demands such as the resignation of the Chairman of the IECM from the position of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal, and increasing the number of the CA members if these things were to meet the demands of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya. Even to meet these demands, new ordinances are required. The four-party political mechanism has to agree these things to make possible. Tearing down all the setups made so far as demanded by the leaders of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya was next to impossible. So, the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya has no alternative but to participate in the elections or launch a war or protest to dislodge the elections.


Some political leaders said that UCPN-Maoist did not want CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya to participate in the election whereas UDMF did not want the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal to participate in the elections. If they were to participate in the elections, they would cut the votes of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF benefiting NC and CPN-UML. So, NC and CPN-UML needed to make efforts on making CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya and Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal participate in the elections.


On the campaign trails, NC leaders said that the past CA could not promulgate a new constitution because NC had been defeated in the elections in other words NC had no sufficient strength in the CA to promulgate a new constitution; so, this time Nepalis needed to vote for NC to make it strongest among the political parties whereas leaders of CPN-UML said that the dissolved CA could not promulgate a new constitution because the UCPN-Maoist had been placed with the majority votes; so, Nepalis should make CPN-UML a largest party in the coming CA if they wanted a new constitution. UCPN-Maoist leaders said that if Nepal were to have the identity-based federalism then Nepalis needed not only to vote for them but also to give them the two-thirds majority. UDMF leaders have been for the identity-based federalism.


The fact was that NC and CPN-UML stood against identity-based federalism whereas UCPN-Maoist and UDMF stood for it. Both the opposing political parties did not step out of their respective stand on federalism. The causality had been the CA that had died prematurely not being able to complete its mission on promulgating a new constitution.


Some political analysts and politicians also believed that the elections to a new CA would be referendum on federalism. If NC and CPN-UML were to win the two-thirds majority of the members of the second CA, then Nepalis could forget about the federalism. They would impose the central rule all over Nepal. A class of born rulers would rule the country. If Nepalis voted UCPN-Maoist and UDMF to power, and give them the two-thirds majority, identity-based federalism would be the reality, and the power would be at the state level for development. Each state could develop, as its people wanted. So, the elections to a new CA would give the opportunity to the people for choosing any system.


CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya did not want to participate in such a referendum. They did not want a second CA to craft a new constitution working with the political parties of the parliamentary system. Leaders of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya wanted to craft a people’s constitution. What does the people’s constitution mean? They don’t explain.


Political future of the leaders of CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya would uncertain if they were not to participate in the elections. It was for sure that nobody would be able to meet the demands of CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya. Leaders of CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya have to either participate in the elections or to make sure that elections are not held to keep the status of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya as a political party of significance. They could make noises but they would hardly be able to stop the elections from happening. Thus, the leaders of the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya have been cornered by their actions of no actions in participating elections.


Only a few Nepalis would support the anti-elections movement the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya is supposed to launch. Nepalis would not tolerate shutdowns of Nepal any more. Nepalis have been mentally prepared to fight against any caller of the shutdown of Nepal. The international community doesn’t want such illegal actions of the political party. The only way to fight peacefully against any party is to participate in the elections.


Except for the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya, other political parties opposing to the elections would have a difficulty in making any dent in any effort on dislodging the elections.


After the elections to the CA in 2008, and the then his party called Madheshi Peoples’ Rights Forum garnered a significant number of votes, Chairman of Madheshi Peoples’ Rights Forum-Nepal Upendra Yadav became one of the kingmakers in the Nepalese politics. He made Permanada Jha vice-president and Dr Ram Baran Yadav the first president of Nepal. Then, he became the foreign minister in the coalition government headed by Chairman of UCPN-Maoist Prachanda. He could not keep his status as the kingmaker. His party broke into three pieces. Now, he heads only one of the broken parties. He pretends to lead another front made of eight political parties but these parties are insignificant. So, Mr. Upendra Yadav, his party and even the front he presided over would not be able to make any significant challenge to stop the EC from holding the elections.


Ashok Rai had been the deputy chairman of CPN-UML. He quit the CPN-UML, as the policy of the CPN-UML on federalism has been against the identity-based federalism the ethnic people had been demanding. He set up his party called Federal Social Party. Mr. Rai belongs to one of the ethnic groups called Rai. Some of the ethnic leaders belonging to CPN-UML and NC followed him but not all of them joined his party.


To run a party, a large amount of money is required, as political parties need to maintain the families of the political leaders and then keep the cadres. Some of the political parties make regular payments to their cadres.


Political parties force the large businesses and industrial houses to donate large amounts to the political parties. Some of the political parties sent their cadres to coerce the storeowners, restaurant owners, business people and small industrial enterprises to contribute certain amounts the cadres set for them. In addition, they also collect a large amount from the construction contractors. Often, cadres of large political parties fight against each other to influence the concerned state agencies to award the state construction contracts to the contractors of their choice.


Whether Mr. Rai has sufficient money to run the party he has set up or not is not known. Probably, Mr. Rai alone would not be able to influence the holding of the elections. However, he could support the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya for attempting to disrupt the elections.


CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya might be able to make influence on attempting to stop the holding of the elections but the leaders of this party needed to know if they were to succeed to foil the elections means it would a counter-revolution, and it would push the country back. It would help the repressive forces in their attempts on rising to power, and it also would help the political parties that have been adopting the policy on a status quo. It also might help in bringing political instability.


CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya could not launch a war, as some of its leaders wanted to. The political situation in the country is not favorable to such a war. People in general wanted elections to a CA that would compete the crafting of a new constitution, and then the CA to promulgate a new constitution. Promulgation of a new constitution alone could bring political stability and future socio-economic development. So, stopping the holding of the elections to a new CA means disrupting not only the political development but also the socio-economic development. The international community also did not want to see any kinds of political instability in Nepal. So, it would not be realistic for the CPN-Maoist-Vaidhya to launch another war. Even protesting against the holding of elections is not so wise if the leaders were to keep the party intact.


June 22, 2013

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