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Poll Campaign Most Foul

By P. Kharel
pkharel1By any measure, the campaigning in the latest general elections under the two-year old crippled constitution registered the worst in form, content and style in Nepal’s history since 1959. The code of conduct issued and publicised by the Election Commission was reduced to shreds in a mockery of political norms and values. The ones forming the next government will, however, expect others to honour rules and regulations.
The main forces in the fray (the Left alliance and the so-called democratic grouping) resorted to blatant untruths that voters could see without ambiguity. That people vote is no indication of their conclusion regarding the existing political mechanism and the regime in the offing. Let it not be forgotten that during the partyless panchayati period, too, voters turned out in impressive numbers to exercise their ballots.
Something is better than nothing was the thinking, as is the case this time too, though, deep down, people persuade themselves to hope against hope. In the past, parties made lofty promises but never fulfilled them. They did not even apologise for this. Nearly 30 years after the restoration of party system, people realise that the same old groups and their non-performing leaders are at the forefront of elective politics and seat of power.
PICTURE AHEAD: Whether the leaders and parties that failed the Nepali people for three decades will emerge in dramatically different, positive and delivering incarnations in the new scheme of things is anyone’s guess. Some may like to delude themselves that the nation will take a course of consistent pace of progress, for a change and relief.
Oli predicted: “Deuba is the last Congress prime minister.” Deuba claimed he would be installed the next prime minister. Smaller parties expressed outrage at the major parties having not addressed many serious issues.
Rastriya Prajatantra Party, basking in its anointment as a “loktantrik” force by the party that “successfully led all major popular movements”, asserted its commitment to restoring institutions and declarations that were abandoned and announced by the NC and others as “achievements of the 2006” political changes.
That was the gist of the general tone and tenor of the campaign content. There is less coherence in the election manifestoes, promising the skies by parties that have since long been in the seat of government as majority party, minority party and coalition combinations.
On the issue of flagrant violation of the election code, The Republica English daily quoted former Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety: “It’s futile to even comment as no one is heeding the election code.” The same newspaper had Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav admitting that the commission was compelled to compromise under political pressure. “They asked for helicopters citing security concerns and we reconsidered our stance.”
Bomb blasts occurred in many districts and some 150 sites. Individual candidates fielded by different parties and the houses and polling station sites were the target of such explosives registering an increasing number of those killed or wounded. Are the serial bomb blasts that seemed to occur at regular will any long-term indicator of a grim picture being unfolded?
OPEN VIOLATION: Candidates in quite a few constituencies were reported to have deployed school children for their campaigning. Posters and banners were used and cash distributed in exchange of pledge to vote. It is in everyone’s lips that election expenses have reached far beyond the ceiling set by the code of conduct prescribed for electoral candidates.
The opposition alliance left no stone unturned to slam the government’s “misuse of power and position” in a bid to manipulate voting. Even if the criticism was valid, the bitterness could have emanated from the grapes-are-sour syndrome of a grouping that is not in power this time.
Corruption leads to the worst form of governance; and rampant corruption breaks all bounds of democratic governance. But mention of corruption seemed to be taboo for the ruling side to mention and hence its silence on it during the entire campaign. On the other hand, the Left vowed to tackle corruption if it came to power.
The fact remains: No government since 1990 is free from charges of corruption. And there have been six communist prime ministers so far. Interestingly, both the “loktantrik” front the Left alliance keeps harping on “socialism”. However, the socialism promised in Nepal is, at best, a mirage. All governments have been fully swayed by the agendas set by international financial and lending agencies.
Corruption and politicians are deeply in love in South Asia. Their lust for power and money make leaders lose their public credibility but they have the organisational network to muscle their way through electoral victory.
Any government committed to equality of opportunity and political integrity, needs to check corruption as its top first priority. Secondly, it may be noted that only an interim government composed of widely respected figures with no personal axe to grind is an answer to misuse of power and undue advantage that otherwise could be predictably risked.

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