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Constituent Assembly Election - II and the election result

Saroj Gautam and Lara Klossek

On 27th November 2013, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Nepal (FES) organized a discussion program in the course of the activities of their youth network, which was built to give young people in Nepal a platform to raise their voices and discuss about political topics which they concern. The idea for the fourth program of the FES Youth Network Nepal was to analyze the results of the recently hold Constituent Assembly Elections. Therefore the fourth program was conducted under the headline of "Constituent Assembly Election - II and the election result".

On 19th November 2013 and for the second time after the 2008 elections the people of Nepal went to vote for their Constituent Assembly. Due to several disagreements between the parties represented in the first Constituent Assembly and the politicization of important topics at stake, the Assembly could not fulfill their primary task of drafting and promulgating the much awaited constitution. Having not fully completed the peace process and the democratization a constitution for Nepal is decisive for driving those processes forward and giving it a legal framework. Therefore the election and its outcome are very important for the future of the country.

The pre-election phase was only shadowed by the attempt of the Mohan Baidya-led breakaway from the Maoist faction who constantly tried to derail the process by organizing bandhs and strikes and even using bombs in order to spread fear among voters. These attempts were answered by the Interim Government's move to deploy the army for election security, also backed by the Pranchanda-led Maoists. Further the Supreme Court ordered Baidya to stop their anti-election campaign. The people of Nepal decisively rejected the fraud spread by the Baidya-led faction, which became obvious as per the high voters' turnout (over 70 per cent) on day of election. The results so far show a plurality of first-past-the-post seats for the Nepali Congress, followed closely by the CPM-UML. The UCPN (Maoist) have to accept a bitter election defeat. Also the seats allocated by the proportional system show the NC winning the majority of the seats. The success of the relatively peaceful elections is now disturbed by claims of the UCPN (Maoist) leader Prachanda, stating that the election has not been conducted in a free and fair manner.
In the next weeks, after receiving the final results, the task in Nepal will be to form a functioning government, which will require the forming of coalitions.

Presentation

The program was inaugurated by Samira Paudel (FES Gender Coordinator), welcoming all the guests and introducing the presenter of the program.

General Ashok K. Mehta is a former Major general of the Indian army. Since being permanently retired in 1991, he works as radio and television commentator and columnist on defense and security issues. He was actively involved in the peace processes in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Further he published several books including "The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal and the Royal Nepal Army". Following the political processes in Nepal and visiting the country regularly General Ashok K. Mehta is very familiar with Nepali politics.

Mr Mehta started the presentation telling that he was always sure that the election will take place in Nepal. He said that in India the general opinion about the taking place of the election was negative. He congratulated the Nepalese people for a successful election and said that it was a victory of the Nepalese voters. He explained that by pointing out the high electoral turnout, as well as the relatively peaceful Election Day. Further he mentioned that the outcome of the elections, which is a complete reversal of the former result, shows that the people of Nepal use their voting power in order to vote a party out of office, which was not able to draft the constitution for the country. He also said that the defeat of the UCPN (Maoists) showed that voters are against any form of ethnic federalism as proposed by the Maoist party. Mr Metha argued that despite having such successful elections the forming of government will now bring a lot of problems ahead. Coalition formation will be decisive and therefore compromise between the political parties is necessary. In addition he said that writing a constitution without including the CPN (Maoist) in the process will be impossible. The 10-decade long civil war, which finally ended the monarchy in Nepal, was mainly fought by the Maoist army. Therefore they can't be excluded at this point. This will bring along some difficulties as Prachanda - the leader of the UCPN (Maoist) - said that its party is democratized now, but not all of his party members are following him. Therefore one can say that the Maoists have to be included in the process despite not fully accepting democratic values. He further advised that the NC, saying they will draft a constitution within a year, should build upon the 80 - 90 per cent of work which is already done. Concerning Geopolitics he said that the election result is very positive for India as they are familiar with the NC and the UCPM-UML, which he described as "traditional" parties. In comparison China would have favored another result, as they are closer to the CPN (Maoist). Overall both countries do want stability for the region.

Mr Mehta concluded his presentation saying that the election has been free and fair and therefore a success. Further it will help Nepal to finally get a legitimate government back. This will stabilize the foreign policy, the economy as well as the tourism sector and will eventually lead to an overall increase of stability in the country. In that process he said that India's and his best wishes are with Nepal.

Discussion

The Discussion started with the question of Mr Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal if a government should work according to the mandate by the people or according to the consensus. This question was a core question throughout the discussion.

Mr Lal Babu Yadav expressed his happiness that despite of uncertainty before the election the high electoral turnout and the relatively peaceful day of election took place. He further said that he believes that this time people gave their vote with a feeling of nationalism for the country and not because of their ethnical background. With the example of Topi and Dhoti he showed that both are related with the Nepali culture and tradition and shouldn't be misused to separate Nepali people from each other. He then questioned that a constitution in Nepal can successfully be written if it is not done in consensus with the other parties, which have not actively participated in the CA elections. He proposed to create a dialogue forum in order to include them in the process. He added that a good leader for Nepal would be needed, who is characterized by its ability to listen to the will of the people and leave its own personal will behind. Further this leader should be able to minimize the international interference in Nepal, which according to Mr Lal Babu Yadav is at a high level at the moment.

Pranav Kharel posed the question how agencies in India, which are dealing with Nepal, are going to react on the election result and how they will orientate their policy towards Nepal. He then asked the hypothetical question what would happen if the BJP in India will come to power, which he himself answered by predicting a radical policy shift towards Nepal.

Pradip Pariyar wanted to know if the Nepali army, as they are accused of election fraud, should comment more openly on this topic as they are not commenting publicly on that so far. He further wanted to know, what would be the structure of the future government in Nepal from an Indian perspective.

Santosh Pariyar put the fairness of First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) System into question, saying that a lot of the votes will not be taking into account at all. He further asked if it is acceptable that some discourses are totally left out at the moment, like the discourse about women or Dalits.

Babita Basnet asked if India has come into the place of the former king, as there is rumor going on that they are highly influencing Nepal. For example they are accused of interfering in choosing the people in high posts. She added that there is a discussion going on if President Ram Baran Yadav is staying in his post or if there should be new elections.

Ganesh Lohar said that the question of ethnic federalism for Nepal is a very sensitive one. He said that Nepal is in need of federalism and India cannot put that into question as they are also a federal country. Further he criticized that despite the fact that Nepal is also modernizing and dealing with the same problems and challenges like India there conception of Nepal has not changed over the years. They are seeing Nepal as some sort of back warded country, where the people are not able to care for themselves. He asked when this wrong conception about Nepal is going to change and linked this to a policy shift of India towards Nepal.

Rajeev Timilsina said that in Nepal, consensus is believed to be a crucial requirement for peace and stability. In order to resolve the problem of conflict dialogue, consensus and communication is important. He added that peace and democracy is needed. Consensus is a precondition for peace and competition is a requirement for democracy. He then asked how competition and consensus can both be practiced at the same time and whether one should be more prioritized than the other.

Naresh Rimal said that during the election campaign the parties gave the people the assurance of better infrastructure and other positive developments instead of giving them an assurance of writing the constitution. If this will remain to be more important to the parties, Mr. Rimal daoubted that a constitution will be drafted soon in Nepal. He put also into question if Nepal can be governed by the philosophy of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Mao, since they are not born or related to Nepal.

Ganesh Kumar Mandal wanted to know if the election result can be accepted, as according to him only half of the person eligible to vote participated in the election. He added that the printing of the ballot paper was given to vendors related to UML and NC and that they printed one and a half times more ballot papers than needed. Further he accused the Election Commission of validating votes from broken ballot boxes. He asked if one can still talk about a fair election, keeping all that facts in mind.

Dinesh Bhattarai asked what role India could play in making the Maoist and other parties who are not happy with the election result, accept the will of the people. Further he wanted to know how one can define and distinguish between regressive and progressive parties if all have a similar agenda regarding women, issues related to cast and rural areas and so on.

Ananda Aditya said that in voting the NC back in office we have to see a deep message from the population that they have been fed up with the former government. Further he came back to the question Mr Dev Raj asked in the beginning and he said the problem between consensus and mandate lies already in the understanding of both terms. He said that everyone is interpreting the terms differently and therefore it will lead to misunderstandings.

General Ashok Mehta summarized that there have been asked three sets of questions: one about consensus vs. mandate, one about the quality of the election and the last about the relation between India and Nepal. Concerning the question of consensus vs. mandate General Mehta said that 100 % of consensus is unreachable, unrealistic and impractical. Therefore he suggests that one should always try to get a maximum of consensus without slowing down the decision processes too much. He added that with a lack of leadership it is even more complicated to get compromises. According to him G.P. Koirala was the last "leader" in Nepal, who successfully made the Maoist and Madhesis participate in the first elections. Concerning the quality of election he mentioned a dialogue with a friend from Amnesty International according to whom the election has been reasonably free and fair by Amnesty standards. Some smaller problems occurred while the ballots were taking to the places for counting. He said that he cannot see election fraud caused by the Nepalese army. To the topic of India and Nepal Relations Mr Mehta said that India will surely accept the results of the Nepalese election, as it is normal in international relations to deal with any elected government. He further said that the rumors about India's influence in Nepal are not new, and that India can hardly do anything in changing Nepal's impression about that.

Conclusion

The discussion showed that - Nepal successfully having elections for the Constituent Assembly made a first and important step towards a new government and in addition to it a possible future constitution. Despite this huge success the discussion revealed the problems Nepal will face in the post-election face forming a government. Over here it was highlighted that it will be important to find a balance between consensus and mandate, as trying to find consensus on every small issue will paralyze the policy-making processes.

 
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