P. Kharel: Nepal - Prodigal Parties
Nepal - Prodigal Parties
By P. Kharel
All eyes are on the February 8 municipal elections. With 16 more applicants having been formally registered on Tuesday, a total of 72 parties are in line for contesting the forthcoming municipal elections. Nearly two million voters are eligible to elect about 4,200 representatives at various levels of 58 municipalities. According to the Election Commission, all necessary preparations are progressing as per its schedule.
The municipal polls are to be followed by elections to nearly 4,000 village development committees and 75 district development committees sometime later but before the parliamentary polls to be held by mid-April 2007. when the five-year term of all the local bodies ended in April 2002, , the Nepali Congress refused to give them an extension. The government was against the extension of the local local bodies created that they considered merely a "creation of polls conducted under Bam Dev Gautam (of UML)." Gautam was home minister when the 1997 local polls were held.
Polls are both an opportunity and challenge for all mainstream political parties to seek and obtain popular mandate for local governance. Subsequent District development committee polls should complete the cycle and fill the democratic bill before the battle of the ballot for a new House of Representatives takes place anytime thereafter but not later than mid-April 2007.
As peace and security in the country has improved, the country is gearing up for municipal and general elections. In a December 2 message to the nation on his return home after participating in the 13 th SAARC Summit in Dhaka and the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis apart from visiting some African countries, His Majesty emphasised holding free and fair election, describing the exercise as the very soul of democracy.
On various occasions both at home and abroad, the Monarch has made such reiteration time and again. The date for the municipal polls is fixed. Timeframe for parliamentary polls has also been laid out in a royal directive to the Election Commission in October to do the needful by mid-April 2007. The commitment is firm and clear. Anti-democrats fear polls the most. Anti-people regimes all over the world are not keen to hold elections. They push for poll postponement on and on. Their argument would be that the time is not congenial for any electoral exercise. Even if they do reluctantly agree to on a poll schedule, they discourage their rivals and often do not hesitate to persecute them on one pretext or the other.
In Nepal's context, all mainstream political forces need to review their existing postures and approach to the impending elections. Some political parties are warning on their active boycott of the battle of the ballot. They include Nepali Congress and UML that previously had an impressive presence in the local bodies.
Speaker Tara Nath Ranabhat on Monday termed elections as the best means to resolve the crisis the nation is facing today. He called for creating a congenial atmosphere for the same. The suggestion is very valid. But it takes two to tango. Both the government and the seven political parties agitating in the streets should make joint efforts to ensure the desired atmosphere.