Election Commission’s unconstitutional actThe attempt by the constitutional body to curb criticism of top leaders is against the spirit of freedom of speech.
A recent threat by the Election Commission to punish social media pages and individuals running the 'No, Not Again' campaign—a public call for boycotting tried and tested leaders of major political parties—is egregious. It is outrageous that an independent institution like the commission does not understand the need to secure freedom of speech. Every individual is constitutionally allowed to decide whom to elect and whom to reject. The commission might curtail people's right to free speech, but how would it stop leaders from planting propaganda against each other? The leaders cry out loud not to vote for their opponents. And this is precisely what these campaigns are also doing.
Why has the commission issued this circulation? It is an outright misuse of power by those in government and opposition. They are frightened by the shifting sentiments of the people in the recent election. They are aware that they cannot sell their outdated political agendas anymore, and there is a substantial chance that they will be ousted from politics. The recent case of the rise of independent candidates in local elections has been a nightmare for politicians. Therefore, political nominations and their high hands over such independent organisations as the commission are now paying back dividends in their favour. This indicates how so-called democratic institutions are becoming autocratic and restraining people's voices whenever they feel threatened by changing public sentiments.
Now, let's discuss how these campaigns are needed and why political parties are trying to crack them down. It has long been seen in our political landscape that there are no new agendas for the main political parties other than pulling one another's legs to save the country and the constitution. The dramatic change in the recent history of Nepali politics has made it clear that all they care about is themselves rising to power and fulfilling their will. Whether the current unnatural coalition of leftists and rightists to form a new government or the autocratic nature of former prime minister KP Sharma Oli, all they care about is their cronies and their ego. This can also be seen in the current coalitions of antithesis ideologists for the coming election. How can economically and politically two extremes, the rightists and the leftists, find common ground for coalition if their cynical personal interests were n0t the priority? Similarly, it is unnatural to see a party favouring an autocratic political system with a plan to restore the toppled Shah dynasty and another party fighting to overthrow it.
They also understand that people are fed up with their way of running the government. They have no plans to take the country out of the current economic crisis and increasing living costs. So all they are doing is selling their nationalist popular political agendas. The race now is about who is more patriotic. But people know that none of them cared about the nation. They know that people can be easily influenced with patriotic agendas. But now, things are changing, and people are aware that the leaders forget their promises made during elections as soon as they make it to the government. This is why the leaders do not want social media, a profound tool to communicate information to large audiences, to educate people by such campaigns who are uneducated, unaware of these political leaders' wrongdoings, and can be easily influenced by popular agendas.
The primary target of the 'No, Not Again' campaign has remained the top leaders of major political parties. They have been directly or indirectly ruling the government for at least two decades. This is obvious because these leaders have ruled the country as prime minister and consistently failed to deliver their agendas every time. Current Prime Minister Deuba, who is the prime minister for the fifth time and is in the race for his sixth term, is not likely to do any better, if not worse. The same is true with former prime minister KP Sharma Oli, who has become a prime minister twice and is also in the race for his third. However, his past two terms have already shown that he cannot deliver his big, unrealistic promises. His hunger for power will likely harm democracy and the economy more than what we have witnessed in his second term.
The same is true for other leaders, who are anything but fit for the prime minister's position. One tenure in the office is more than enough to gauge one's abilities and expertise to run the nation. A recent example of former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, shows that one mistake and a shift in their agendas are sufficient to show the incompetence of an individual to run the administration. However, in our case, political leaders have such a firm grip on their parties that they constantly repeat the same mistake and make it to the top again. We have to change this to have a politically and economically strong nation.
The 'No, Not Again' campaign is doing what it is supposed to: Bring together politically aware youths and educate the people that Nepal’s development is impossible with current leaders. The campaign is not denouncing the personal life of any candidate but is only debunking their unrealistic political ideas and their political lives. In a democratic country, it is always rightful not only for an individual but also for media, social activists, independent private sectors or any other stakeholder to make their voices public. During the elections, it is also a crucial responsibility not only of social media but also of big media houses to endorse the most suitable candidates for office. The New York Times endorsed current president Joe Biden during his presidential race back in 2020. This is important because it allows readers and the general public, who are so fragile and likely to fall into popular unrealistic ideas of politicians, to understand what they need and who is fit for that job.
The attempt by the Election Commission to stop campaigns that criticise top leaders of political parties and any candidate running for this election is unconstitutional and against the freedom of speech. It must be stopped and let the people decide who to vote for and who not to.