Government and the question of poll ‘management’

Can political parties in power manipulate elections? Judging by the ongoing power tussle among major parties in Nepal, one shouldn’t be blamed for thinking that it could be possible.

Four months have elapsed since dissolution of the Constituent Assembly without promulgating a constitution. But that seems to be the last thing on agenda of those in power and outside.

Instead, they are more worried about being in power when the next election to elect a new Constituent Assembly is held.

The ruling Maoist-Madhesi combine and Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the two main opposition parties, agreed earlier this month that fresh election is the only way out of the present constitutional and political crisis.

But as is usual in Nepal, the details, more specifically who would head the next national unity government comprising all parties is the issue that has led to fresh differences.

Other issues like when will polls be held, size of the new CA, the process of selecting lawmakers and whether the constitution drafting process will start from scratch have taken a backseat.

Since there’s consensus that polls would be held under a unity government, the tussle over who would head it would seem futile. Unless it’s a question of prestige or the hope that the party heading the government could manipulate state machinery to its advantage.

In the four years since the last polls, governments in Nepal have been headed twice by Maoists and an equal number of times by CPN (UML). As the NC is yet to get that chance, there’s assumption that this time it should don that role.

In a five-point deal among the four major parties in May (prior to the CA dissolution) there was agreement that NC would head the next unity government—the one that would conduct the polls.

But in the changed circumstances following CA dissolution, that agreement has lost significance.

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is of the opinion that the present coalition headed by his party should stay in power till polls and other parties should join it to form a unity government.

On the other hand, NC is unwilling to let go of its chance at heading the government. But infighting on who would become prime minister, is acting as obstacle.

KP Sharma Oli of CPN (UML) and Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bijay Gachchadar who represent the Madhesi parties in the present government have also expressed desires be become prime minister.

The present scenario exposes the deep distrust among all major parties and the worry that if they fail to head the government when the next polls are conducted, their prospects at the hustings could get affected.

This reinforces the belief that the party heading the next government could use the resources at its disposal to manipulate results thus diminishing the possibility of free and fair polls.

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  1. Curumin sings in portuguese, not spanish.

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