Making politics work

  • Lack of locally elected bodies has led to serious dysfunctions in governance
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 11, 2016-

Governance and democracy have suffered in Nepal due to the failure to hold local elections. The last time that elections to local bodies were held was in 1997. It was impossible to hold local elections through the years of the Maoist conflict. And they could not be held even after the war ended in 2006, due to disagreements among the political parties. 

The lack of elected members at local bodies has caused serious dysfunctions in governance. In their absence, unelected committees of party leaders took responsibility for local governance. And they have acted in a highly irresponsible manner. It is now widely accepted that these All-Party Mechanisms were responsible for the widespread corruption prevalent at the local level across the country. Many experts believe that these mechanisms were not accountable to the population as they were not elected. In addition, the absence of local bodies has stifled the development of local democracy and prevented local leaders from developing their skills and careers. 

Senior political leaders are now discussing the possibility of holding local elections. It seems likely that they will be held in the not-too-distant future, as there is now significant political will behind the idea. Until quite recently, the Maoists and the Madhesi parties were vehemently opposed to local elections. 

They argued that local elections should not be held until the new federal model was established. But the Maoists then decided to compromise on the constitution and have now formed a governing alliance with the CPN-UML. They are currently more amenable to holding local elections. Now that the Madhes crisis seems to have ebbed and the blockade lifted, it is likely that party leaders will decide to push ahead with local elections. 

There are, however, a number of problems that could complicate this plan. While the Madhes protests have ended, there is still widespread anger and disenchantment in the Tarai. Madhesi leaders are quite likely to oppose any plan to hold local elections. If elections are held, they could use it as an opportunity for further political mobilisation. Leaders of the major political parties therefore have to be very cautious in their plan.

In addition, the latent anger that is simmering across the Tarai could erupt. If the state decides to control the restive population through the deployment of the security forces, it could spark even wider violence. The region has already seen a lot of violence during the course of the Madhes protests.

It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that holding local elections does not exacerbate the violence. Political reconciliation is necessary before local elections are held. Without it, there is a chance that local elections will further divide the country rather than help to heal wounds that are still fresh. 

Published: 11-02-2016 08:58

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