Participatory politics

  • Necessity of local poll is widely recognised; the challenge is to conduct a good one

Apr 17, 2017-

Less than a month remains before the scheduled date for local elections, and there are myriad problems that remain to be resolved. Some of these are logistical in nature. The Election Commission (EC) has been struggling to complete all the preparations on time. While most preparations are on track, the EC is lagging behind in voter education efforts. Voter education has not even begun in many parts of the country. Volunteers remain to be trained. Publicity materials remain to be delivered to the constituencies. This is a grave matter. Voter education isn’t only symbolic. Nepal is holding local elections after 20 years and the procedures this time are highly complicated; there are fears that a high number of invalid votes could be cast.

Political challenges pose bigger problems. The Madhesi parties have rejected the government’s proposal for a new constitutional amendment and have decided to disrupt electoral activity. There is widespread fear that if elections are held in Province 2 and parts of Province 5 without reaching an agreement with the Madhesi parties, there could be disruption and violence. 

Despite calls for agreement from within the party ranks, some top leaders such as KP Oli and Sher Bahadur Deuba continue to insist on holding elections in Province 2 on schedule. All efforts need to be made to reach an agreement with the Madhesi parties before holding the elections. For their part, Madhesi parties should stop giving an impression that they were never keen about the local level elections scheduled for May.

Additionally, 68 parties have been protesting against the provision that does not allow smaller parties to have an election symbol. Rather, their candidates will have to register as independents, and each of them will have their own symbol. These parties feel, not without reason, that this will disadvantage them; people will be confused with all the symbols of independent candidates. They will only be able to recognise familiar symbols of the major parties. This might seem like a minor technical matter, but it is of grave consequence to Nepal’s democratic space. This provision reveals that the major parties have been trying to use various methods to entrench their dominance while preventing smaller parties from gaining power. 

Still, the necessity of local elections is widely recognised. They are meant to stimulate democracy at the grassroots levels. However, if elections are held without resolving the above-mentioned problems, there is a danger that socio-political divisions could get further entrenched and democracy undermined. The major parties, including the Madhesi ones, would do well to remedy the existing problems to ensure the participation of as wide a section of the population as possible. 

Published: 17-04-2017 07:44

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