21 November, 2013

Just because the Maoists lost at the polls doesn’t mean they don’t have a say in this writing



I just watched Rajan KC of the Nepali Congress party get decorated with sindoor as he accepted his win. "Prachanda cannot say it was a free and fair elections last night, then claim its unfair the next morning," he said. "I lost against Prachanda from this same area six years ago, and I accepted my defeat then. In a Loktantrik system, he has to accept his defeat."

NTV, it appeared, was as confused as Prachanda about the loss. As it called in the winner, it ran a brief biographical profile of the winning candidate. And just by mistake, it happened to run Prachanda's biographical film--it is as if the technical staff behind the scenes just couldn't believe Prachanda had lost the election.

In all fairness, I would say Prachanda’s claim deserves a thought. If most elections in the past have had unfair things happen—Maoists strong-arming people to vote for them, ballot boxes  vanishing at night,  booths being captured, why wouldn’t similar things happen in this elections? A relative of mine mentioned that in the last elections, Prachanda won with far more votes than there were voters registered in his area—whether this is a verified fact or a rumor, I found this perception that the ballot is intrinsically vulnerable to corruption interesting. “And Jimmy Carter went away saying it was fair!” he says. I am not saying this sort of thing happened in Kirtipur—but I would keep an open mind that some of these sleigh-of-hand probably occurred in the Nepal elections circa 2013.

“Now there are no more communists in Kirtipur. We are now going to write the Constitution the Loktantrik way,” Mr. KC ended by saying. While I am not the biggest fan of the Maoists, this statement appeared a little rude to my consensual ears. First, Comrade Prachanda had apparently won 12,000 plus votes from Kirtipur, showing he still had a significant voter base in that area. Secondly, Nepal’s divided constituency is hardly going to sit down and accept defeat, just because it lost at the polls—so the need of the hour now is not to impose one’s winning credentials but to make sure an inclusive mode of Constitution making is followed, with the Nepali Congress leading.  

With half the Maoists sitting out the elections, this elections cannot be seen to have included all of Nepal’s divided constituency.  The Maoists are known for strategies other than democracy, war being a favorite tactic. So it appears to me that the Nepali Congress and the UML should tread very carefully at the moment, making extra sure the Maoists don’t feel excluded.

The Constitution has been a divided document to thresh out. Just because the Maoists lost at the polls doesn’t mean they don’t have a say in this writing. The most contentious points--federalism, the form of the political system—is something that the Maoists and the others haven’t been able to agree on. These are the points they got stuck on, and these are the points that are again going to bring on the arguments and dead-locks. So it may be in the NC and UML’s best interests to focus on other issues that all people can agree on.

The Constitution is a dead horse the big parties have been flogging for a while, without a great deal of results. It may be time now to close this chapter, thank the donors for their support, thank friendly neighbors for their great interest in Nepal’s political transition, and move on to the real act of governance.




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