Challenges aheadThose in newly elected Parliament must ensure that welfare of people takes precedence over petty party interests
The last ballot in the series of elections was cast yesterday (Thursday) and one would expect the going from now on will be smooth and devoid of the lust and struggle for power that has been the hall mark of this country’s politics. The local elections were held in different phases this year, beginning in May and ending in September. The parliamentary and provincial assembly elections were held in two phases and occurred within a span of less than two weeks, with the first phase on November 26, and the second on December 7. One has to be thankful that the nation-wide elections were completed in just two phases, as it is not an easy task to hold elections in a country with a terrain that is comprised of snowy mountains, hills and the plains, especially at the onset of the winter season.
More than 15 million people were stated to be eligible to vote in the elections. And according to the Election Commission (EC), there was a turnout of more than 63 percent in the first phase of the elections. The turnout for the second phase—for which there are over 12 million eligible voters—will be known within the next few days but considering the turnout in the first phase, one can expect that over 50 percent voters exercised their right. The results of the parliamentary and provincial assembly polls will be known within a few days but it must be said that the EC did the right thing by postponing the counting of the November 26 polls until both phases of polling are completed. This is because the results of the first phase polls are more than likely to sway the voters one way or the other, especially in country like Nepal where western style democracy is still in its infancy.
One question that strikes most people in the country regarding the elections is how political parties manage to amass colossal amounts of money in order to contest the elections in the manner they do. This spending of huge amounts of cash is a problem that has yet been unsolved. The lack of transparency in the affairs of political parties is one of the main causes of corruption in the country. The political parties have to be able to disclose the source of their funds to concerned authorities including the EC and the public. It is alleged that big businesses and industries as well as different types of mafia pour money into the coffers of A, B, X or Y political parties with the result that no manner whichever party wins or which loses, the donors always win and thus manage to get their tasks done. Such tendencies will continue to encourage corruption in the country even though political parties never tire of promising the people that they will root out corruption and create a corruption free administration.
Many of the voters I met just before polls laughed at the tall promises made by the big political parties and showed little faith in them. But regardless of their feelings, they will nonetheless vote for these very parties. During the last constituent assembly elections, the buzz around the Capital prior to the polling was “Ek vote dai lai, ek vote gai lai” (One vote for the person you know in the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) and one vote for the cow in the proportional ballot). No wonder the Kamal Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatrantra Party (RPP) did well. However, the voters’ faith in the RPP faded with the many compromises the party made to secure seats of power. This time around, one would not be surprised if the new Bibeksheel Sajha Party does what the RPP did in the last constituent assembly, though on a much smaller scale because the party is still in its infancy. The big parties, therefore, can be expected to continue to dominate the political scene for some time, no matter how much some intellectuals may, quite rightly, dislike this scenario.
Issues to tackle
Whatever the outcome of the elections, the fact remains that it marks the end of our very long transition period and all responsible political parties that find their place in the new Parliament must ensure that the welfare of the people and the country takes precedence over petty party interests. This includes the need to ensure that the country is not fragmented and is one whole despite the provinces created, and to further ensure that no parts seek to secede to create a new state or to join a foreign state. The territorial integrity of the country must be preserved at all costs no matter which party or coalition of parties come to power. Then there is the need to enact legislation to enable provincial governments to function properly, not only in legal matters but also financially. These are some of the major challenges that the new government and Parliament will face, and how they will tackle these issues is yet to be seen.
The UML-Maoist’s mismatched marriage for the sake of the elections can be expected to pose problems for the democratically inclined political parties. The fact that the UML want an elected prime minister and the Maoists want an executive head of state indicate the direction that these two major left parties want to take. The present US President is the elected (though not by popular vote) executive head of state and the way he has been handling the state affairs is riddled with controversies. And there have been many dictators elected by the people. The most recent case has been that of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (former Southern Rhodesia), He was elected by the people of his country and yet in later years the world saw him as a dictator who ruined his country. Yet the contributions of Mugabe in the fight against white racialism can never be forgotten. Mao Zedong led China’s communist revolution and became a popular leader but he too was seen to be a dictator in later years.
The new Parliament could—political parties willing—consider making necessary constitutional amendments to ensure that no one from any political party becomes the prime minister or the executive head of state—whether directly elected by the people or by Parliament—for only a limited period of time in order to prevent the possible rise of elected dictatorships. The road ahead for the elected members of Parliament, provincial assemblies, as well as civic local bodies is full of challenges and the sooner the elected personalities realise that an election victory is not a bed of roses, the sooner the country will move towards prosperity.