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Nepal: Moving into an “Election Mode”- Update No. 285

Note No: 697                  Dated 8-Oct-2013
By Dr.S.Chandrasekharan
The good news from Nepal is that the elections are on schedule on November 19 and preparations by the Election Commission and the political parties have begun in right earnest.
The bad news is that the 33 fringe parties led by CPN (M) of Mohan Baidya has decided to boycott the elections and even those from the minor parties who had filed nominations have been asked to withdraw their nominations.
It is not that the High Power committee did not try their best to get the Baidya group to contest elections.  They were willing to go for a round  table conference to discuss with all the parties.  But some of the demands of the Baidya group could not have been accommodated when there was very little time left for the proposed elections.
The Baidya group wanted to disband the present administrative structure led by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi and replaced by a group to be headed by a political appointee.  With the time available this would not have been possible and the Baidya group was not clear either how this would improve the credibility of the coming elections.  They also demanded a deferral of the elections which would have meant postponement of elections to next May. One last demand which perhaps could have been accepted, was the resignation of the Chief executive Regmi from the post of Chief Justice.  But Regmi was very adamant in holding on to the post of Chief Justice and nothing could have been done at this juncture to get him to resign.
The question is whether the elections could be held throughout the country when the Baidya group has openly threatened that they would disrupt the elections.  Some sceptics feel that it would be difficult and they point out to the recent incident at Dhulikhel where a passenger bus was torched by them.  
Ram Bahadur Thapa, former chief of the PLA during the conflict, Defence Minister during Dahal’s regime and now General Secretary of the breakaway group CPN(M) has openly said that they would launch a “second armed struggle.” Their cadres are openly extorting funds from all over the country.  They have also declared that they would launch a ten-day protest movement coinciding with the CA polls.
There are analysts who believe that the Baidya group should have been accommodated for the smooth conduct of the elections.  But how?  As pointed out earlier, except for the resignation of Regmi from the post of Chief Justice, none of their other demands could have been accepted unless the parties were prepared to postpone the elections further to next year.  People would not have accepted the postponement.  There are some critics who maintain that if Regmi had resigned from the post of Chief Justice, perhaps the group would have given up their other demands and contested the elections.  I do not agree with this as the Baidya group with the fringe parties were only waiting to find an excuse not to contest the elections.  There are hints that the Baidya group is only repeating what the Maoist group led by Dahal did in the early nineties and how as a result the group finally captured power by going for an insurrection.  
The situation has changed considerably now.  The Baidya group is in no position to take up arms again and people who are fed up with the past conflict will not countenance another one now.  But the group has the potential to disrupt the elections at selective points and this is what has to be prevented.
A good decision was therefore taken to induct the army for deployment during the elections and it has the approval of the President.  A total of 61,000 army personnel is being set aside as “back up force” during the polls.  The Army has also formed a separate “Election Unit” to meet the needs of the elections.
Deployment of Army Personnel would necessarily involve an amendment to the interim constitution.  The President’s order in the form of an ordinance will have to be ratified within a month of the convening of the new assembly after the polls.
The decision to deploy the army personnel has rattled the Baidya group.  Baidya has written to the UN not to support the Army deployment as that would be against peace pact.  The group had also met the ambassadors of EU on this issue.  C.P. Gajurel of the party had a separate meeting with the Swiss Ambassador.  When asked as to why they should appeal to the international community, he said that the party had decided to draw the attention of the UN and others only because they had mediated in the ‘historic peace process’ of Nepal.
The UN in a statement on 30th September had called for an “inclusive election.”  Other western countries also appear to be taken in by the term “inclusive.”  But on 2nd October Baidya’s party finally dashed hopes of everyone and  declared that “ all purposes of negotiations with the four major parties and the government has ended. The opposing 33 party alliance will carry out ‘political and publicity’ campaigns and effectively and strongly boycott the Nov 19 elections.”  Strongly, in their language has only one meaning- “physical disruption”.
Thus, the whole exercise for an “inclusive” election was brought to an end.  Now it is for the political parties, the government and its arm- the security forces and above all the people to ensure that  elections take place on the 19th of November and thus put an end to months of uncertainty in the country.