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Revisiting CA Election In Nepal

Issue 19, May 11, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Nepal has successfully held the election for a Constituent Assembly (CA). The credit for it goes to the Election Commission (EC), political parties and certainly the Government of Nepal. It has made the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) the legitimate contender for power, sent a number of women to the CA, and shrunk the previously large political parties to their sizes. The first session of the CA would end the Shah dynastic rule in Nepal.

Nepalis need to congratulate the EC and its staffs on holding the historic election for a CA against all odds on April 10, 2008. The EC did not spare even the Prime Minister and the top leaders of the major political parties from calling them to the EC office for inquiring them about following the election code of conduct, and forcing them to abide by the election laws, rules and regulations. At the same time, the EC has been flexible and let the political parties to adjust the sealed list of candidates for the proportional representation election system. So, all these are historic deeds the EC has performed.

The international observers have congratulated the EC on holding the election for a CA successfully in a free and fair manner. Friendly countries have congratulated the Government of Nepal for the successful completion of the historic election for a CA. The Government of Nepal in turn thanked the voters for successfully voting in the election.

Some Nepalis and foreign friends were not sure that Nepal would be able to hold the election for a CA so successfully. However, both the Government of Nepal and the EC have demonstrated that they could do such a challenging job with the support of the political parties and the international community.

The defeated leaders of the political parties particularly of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) have blamed the environment of intimidation and fear created by the cadres of the Young Communist League (YCL) affiliated to the CPN-Maoist for their defeat in the election. They said that they did not prepare for such a situation thinking that it would be regular normal circumstances in which voters would behave normally. However, they stopped short of going to the Election Court.

Political analysts believed that the incompetent leadership of the CPN-UML was the main reason for the defeat of the party in the election. The CPN-UML had been living in a dream world, and did not bother to ascertain the real world situation. They failed to take into account of the new generation voters, and tap them for votes.  General Secretary of CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal had been indecisive and could not present the clear position of his party on the monarchy, federalism, and even republic. He had shown such incredible flexibility that he could go to either side of the monarchy and the NC provided he would benefit from it. He had been always criticizing everyone except for himself. The result was the deadly defeat of the CPN-UML in the election. It cost him his job.

The reason for the defeat of the NC in the election was different from the reason for the defeat of the CPN-UML. Candidates of the Madheshi People’s Rights forum (MPRF) routed the NC candidates in the Terai areas. According to the coordinator of the MPRF, Upendra Yadav, the NC leaders had tried every possible trick to win the election. They spent a huge sum of money on the election; they used muscle power to bully the MPRF cadres and candidates, and intimidated the voters into voting for the NC. The irony is that NC Leader Ram Chandra Poudel has secretly meet with Upendra Yadav in the past, and has encouraged Upendra Yadav in setting up the MPRF ostensibly to counter the CPN-Maoist’ influence on the people of Terai areas but it went head-on collision with the NC. MPRF leaders also have been successful to create the awareness among the Madheshi people of the NC leaders doing nothing for them in the past; it also did contribute to the defeat of the NC in the election for a CA.

The CPN-Maoist would have done better than what it did in the election for a CA if it could have undertaken the damage-control measures to improve its image smeared by some unwarranted activities of the YCL activists. The high-handiness of the YCL cadres got high publicity in the Nepalese media. CPN-Maoist Chairman Prachanda made several damage-control measures to counter the negative publicity of the YCL. Despite all these facts, the CPN-Maoist has made a good start winning a largest number of seats in the soon-to-be-formed CA.

Nepalese voters have rejected the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and its splinter parties for their support for the monarchy. None of the candidates of these parties was successful to get directly elected to a CA. However, they have received some votes in the election held for the proportional representation of political parties in the CA. So, they could at least be proud of their presence in the CA.

Similarly, most of the small communist parties also suffered in this election. Some of them could not get their candidates elected in the direct election. They needed to be satisfied with at least some votes received through the election held for the proportional representation of political parties in a CA. They have been localized parties in certain areas. For example, Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (NWPP) has traditionally won one or two seats in the Bhaktapur constituencies. This time, too, it has won two seats. It has no hold in other areas as indicated by the election for the CA. It has garnered votes for proportional representation just enough for getting its two candidates elected. Time will soon come when all those small left parties would be wiped out.

Twenty-eight ethnic groups have missed their representation in the CA either through direct election or through the proportional representation. Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) chairperson Pasang Sherpa said that political parties failed in ensuring the representation of 28 disadvantaged ethnic groups out of the 59 in the Constituent Assembly either through the direct election for a CA or through the Proportional Representation (PR) violating the 20-point agreement the seven-party government had signed with NEFIN on August 07, 2007. On May 04, 2008, Chairperson Sherpa submitted a memorandum about the exclusion of the representation of 28 ethnic groups in a CA to the Chief Election Commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokhrel that in turn assured Chairperson Sherpa of doing whatever possible at his level to ensure the inclusion of the representation of all ethnic groups. Chairman Sherpa also made it clear that the NEFIN has no choice but to take to the streets starting on the first day of the first session of the CA if the political parties would ignore to include the representation of all ethnic groups in a CA.

The successful holding of the election for a CA marked the completion of the entry of the CPN-Maoist into the mainstream politics. It might be the example for all concerned to follow. The Nepalese Maoists have successfully established as one of the powerful political parties through the peaceful election after fighting for power for ten years. They realized that the peaceful movement was more powerful and effective than the power of guns. So, the question is why not to follow the strategy of the Nepalese Maoists by all those political organizations that have been fighting bitter wars for power.

A higher number of women have got the opportunity of representing various political parties in the CA. Only 29 women got directly elected to the CA; the political parties were obliged to put up at least a half of the total candidates from among the women for the election for the CA following the rules and regulations for the proportional representation in a CA. However, some of the women sent to the CA were daughter and spouse of the top leaders. For example, Renu Dahal is the daughter of Chairman Prachanda; Dr. Arzoo Rana Deuba is the wife of the former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The success of the CA election was also for replacing the exclusive Shah dynastic rule with the inclusive people’s rule in 2008. The first session of the CA was to endorse the official termination of the Shah dynastic administration in Nepal. Suspended King Gyanendra would preside over the ending of the Shah dynastic rule. Ironically, the then Prime Minister Mohan Shamsher crowned the then four-year old Gyanendra a king in 1950; later Mohan presided over the ending of the Rana-hereditary rule in 1951. Gyanendra picked up the crown floated on the blood of his brother King Birendra and his family members mysteriously killed in the palace carnage and became the king second time in 2001.

The election for a CA has brought drastic changes in the political arena of Nepal. Nepalese voters have defeated the status quoits and the monarchists sending the strong message to the world that Nepalis would not live under any sorts of hereditary rule or a family dynastic rule anymore. In addition, Nepalis have demonstrated how they could resolve the conflict through the peaceful election.

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