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Going for polls
Publication Date : 24-09-2012
Reaching an agreement to hold elections in Nepal rather than reviving the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA) was the easy part. The process of establishing institutional mechanisms for the holding of elections will be long and difficult, especially as it involves many issues that are politically controversial. Most immediately, as has been reported, it will be necessary to appoint election commissioners, as three of the five current ones have already retired and the two remaining will retire soon. Then there is the question of amending the Interim Constitution. This is required because the document in its current state does not envisage that elections to a Constituent Assembly will be held again. And of course, there is the matter of who will get to lead the new government that will hold the elections. The parties are nowhere even close to resolving this matter. Past experience shows that the entire political process tends to get stuck on matters such as these.
This is something that the political class needs to avoid at all costs. Even as they negotiate over the formation of a new government, they need to pay attention to the various other matters that require attention if elections are to be held in April or May next year. Besides the issues mentioned above, which have been amply reported in the media, there are other matters that are more technical but by no means uncontroversial. There is first the issue of the electoral law. Observers of the previous CA election will remember how difficult it was for the parties to come to a decision on the electoral system that would be adopted. Finally, they chose a complex system that included first-past-the-post and proportional systems of voting. In addition, the proportional side of the system included quotas. It may be the case that a similar system will be adopted this time. But there will have to be changes to the system, especially considering that the parties have decided to reduce the number of seats in the new CA.
Then, there is the matter of constituency delineation. Constitutional provisions state that electoral constituencies need to be re-delineated after each census. As there was a census just last year, there need to be discussions on whether and how constituency re-delineation will take place. This too is bound to be a highly controversial issue. Similarly, the Election Commission will have to undertake other measures such as ensuring that the voter rolls are updated and complete. If the political parties do not start working on these matters immediately, there is a high chance that it won’t be possible to hold elections in April or May next year. And if that doesn’t happen, elections will be postponed to November 2013 at the earliest. Considering the grave political crisis and the increasing disillusionment of the population, another delay should be avoided at all costs.