What a sham(e)The unnecessary by-elections make a mockery of the election process
In a democracy, elections are a primary tool to foster political openings and expand political participation. It is through voting, a government is chosen. While the citizen gets to be a part of the functioning of the government by means of voting, elections also create a sense of responsibility in the leaders. It makes them realise that they have been entrusted with the trust of people to deliver on their promises. But, making a mockery of one of the biggest pillars of democracy, a by-election in the Kathmandu constituency-7 is going to be held after Nepal Communist Party’s MP Rambir Manandhar resigned from the seat.
According to reports, Manandhar gave up his seat to accommodate senior leader Bamdev Gautam, who, after failing to get elected in the 2017 parliamentary election from Bardiya constituency-1, has been allegedly approaching the party’s MPs to relinquish their seats for him. Manandhar had defeated Rastriya Prajatantra Party candidate Bikram Bahadur Thapa by 8,000 votes to become the MP of Kathmandu-7.
Bamdev Gautam, the UML vice-chairman and one of the main architects of the left alliance, had lost to a Nepali Congress candidate by 753 votes. Earlier, Gautam had convinced State Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Dhan Bahadur Budha to quit his seat from Dolpa-1 in exchange for a nomination in the National Assembly after two years. Manandhar is reportedly the 13th MP to be approached by Gautam. If anything, this only shows the senior leaders desperation to be elected as an MP—sadly, at the cost of others.
By-elections are meant to fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections—usually when the incumbent dies or resigns. They are also conducted when the incumbent becomes ineligible to continue in office. But never are they held solely because a senior member of a party lost the elections, and to make up for the loss, the incumbent is made to resign thereby making way for by-elections. This is as ridiculous as it sounds as it is undemocratic. Such decisions make one feel that the leaders take voters for granted—the fact that who they voted for initially, using their conscience, does not really matter.
What’s more, it could set a bad precedent, too. What if every senior leader who lost an election opts to go choose the same path? How practical will such decisions be? How much patient and forgiving will the voters, too be, then in return? Voters’ disenfranchisement will definitely surface, sooner or later.
Kathmandu-7 seat is up for grabs now. Granted, Bamdev Gautam could be an important and influential member of the ruling party. But the country and the citizens should not be made to bear the brunt of his defeat. Democracies express the people’s will. Not the will of a few influential men. This cannot be the new normal.