Commentary | November 20 elections: Stability of system and country’s development awaited

Election is an essential pillar of democracy, but it should not be taken as the gateway to undemocratic exercises.

The November 20 polls require the electorate to vote on four ballot papers–two separate for the House of Representatives (HoR) and two separate for the Provincial Assembly (PA). File photo

Narayan Prasad Ghimire

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“Although the political movements and announcements were made galore, the holistic development remained elusive for various reasons in Nepal.” It was what the former prime minister and Chairperson of the CPN (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ said while addressing an election assembly organized by the ruling alliance in Taplejung district on Wednesday.

It is sheer admission of the leader of a revolutionary party, which waged a decade-long insurgency in the country for the sake of sweeping change, that how the development is a long pending issue though aspired much by the people and country.

As Dahal said, Nepal indeed waged several political movements since the 2007BS to establish democracy to 2062/63BS to establish ‘loktantra’, but the development remained elusive. Why? The question dogs every aware citizen.

Not only leader Dahal but also other political parties and leaders admit it frankly and frequently, and repeat the promises before the people. With just two days left for the nationwide voting- second after the country got new constitution in 2072BS – the political parties, leaders and candidates have intensified their election campaigns. The silence period is beginning soon.

It is obvious that ‘development’ and ‘prosperity’ are words trite in each speech of candidates/leaders in Nepal. Yet again, they suffused the parties’ election manifestos and electioneering while the voters cried for basic needs like clean drinking water and roadway. It sounds contradictory as well that in the national election- the election to the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly – the parties and candidates had no option but to promise the locals of fulfilling their basic needs like clean water and motorable roads. What one must not forget is we already had the local-level election, which bears much significance in terms of local needs, for the country has adopted federal system.

In addition to the development and prosperity, the political parties are arguing why they should be voted. Chiefly, the ruling alliance has Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Centre), CPN (Unified Socialist), Rastriya Janamorcha and Loktantrik Samajbadi; while another alliance is led by CPN (UML) having RPP, RPP-Nepal and some others. The ruling alliance is reminding the dissolution of the House of Representatives as regressive move and arguing that the election will be a battle between those advocating for regression and progression. Similarly, other alliance led by UML is arguing that only the UML was the nationalist and democratic party in the country.

Similarly, the country this time witnessed a surge of independent candidacies which seems a headache to the traditional political parties. Vibrant youths have campaigned against the old parties. Although the traditional political parties have said they had no alternative, the vibrant emergence of youth candidates cannot be belittled. In the local election last May, none had expected that Balen could win the Kathmandu Mayor, but he became! Election results can therefore be shocking revelations too.

It is worth mentioning here that a ‘No-Not Again Campaign’ was launched in social media- Facebook and Twitter- which gained huge popularity among the youths. Although it was challenged by Election Commission and suspended for some time, it got recognized with the court ruling. The campaign was launched against the old leaders and parties.

In an article published in the Naya Patrika daily on Wednesday, Professor of Political Science, Krishna Pokhrel, observed, “Emergence of independent candidates is the result of the non-performance and failure of major political parties. The independent candidates are encouraged by the victory of Balen and Sampang in the local election.” Professor Pokhrel further said some of such independent candidates may win the election. Harka Sampang, who stood as an independent candidate in the municipal election won the mayoral post in Dharan Sub-Metropolitan City.

These new developments must not be ignored by the traditional political parties in Nepal. They are in need of correction.

The election is not simply a short political event and a game that one party defeats another, but a serious moment to know whether the political parties have retained and earned public trust. Looking into the past five years, they were tumultuous. The split of the political party- Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) and subsequent wrangling for power continued, thereby taking a toll on parliament and political stability. Much time was wasted on political blame.

The dissolution of the House of Representatives twice created a chaotic situation. The change in politics and equations in the federal level also caused a severe effect on the provincial governments. They were changed frequently. Changing the Chief of Province, Chief Minister and reshuffling governments in provinces badly affected the parliamentary practice. It creates doubt whether our political parties utilized the system.

These past five years also witnessed other erosions- public institutions were questioned. The legal practitioners waged months long struggles for a clean judiciary and against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Political parties were flatly divided for and against the Chief Justice.

Similarly, a news story has come recently that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was degraded by the global human rights institution. It is another setback to Nepal’s image. If the NHRC bears a tainted image, how can its recommendations be dubbed credible and worthy to foster a democratic system?

Egregious political interference and appointments in universities caused mockery of meritocracy. For building a robust and stable system, the role of public institutions must be improved. How the political parties are victorious this time analyses these aspects is equally important.

It is true that Nepal has seen huge changes over time. But the people in remote places crying for basic needs clearly indicate that meaningful change to elevate Nepalis’ lifestyle is not realized. Some critics even say that the state of ‘prosperity’ is even beyond ‘development’.

The political parties therefore can utilize this election and their victory as the moment to correct past weaknesses and failures. There is no doubt that Nepali people deserve a secure and prosperous future, and for this to happen, Nepali leaders must not fail the system but devote to prospering the federal republic with utmost cooperation and collaboration.

The election is an essential pillar of democracy, but it should not be taken as the gateway to undemocratic exercises.