BY MAILA BAJE
Boy, are they defensive! And the condescension.
From the almost universal criticism the European Union election observation mission’s final report prompted, you might have expected a tone-down.
In fairness, the EU poll mission has many nice things to say about our recent elections. Yet it’s recommendation pertaining to the “review the impact of the quota system on the ethnic composition of the House of Representatives and provincial assemblies and ensure that measures of affirmative action apply only to groups that are the subject of negative discrimination” was venal enough to hog the headlines. The government, Election Commission, leading political parties and people at large took justified offense.
The two major exceptions were the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) and Federal Socialist Forum, Nepal Chair Upendra Yadav. NEFIN argued that the EU report correctly reflected the reality of Nepal and criticized those criticizing it. Did NEFIN’s stance surprise anyone? Yadav, too, defending the EU statement, adding that such hasty criticism would open Nepal to “serious consequences”. Isn’t this the guy that wants to join the Oli government so bad but just doesn’t seem able to?
The prevailing wisdom, though, is this: At best, the EU poll mission clumsily overstepped its mandate. Worse, it is plotting to sow new discord here when we finally seem to have reached somewhere.
The European Union – and its predecessors – has been a generous benefactor to Nepal over the decades. In recent years, it has been quite candid about its expectations from us. The final years of the Maoist insurgency provided the EU with the opportunity to zero in on ethnicity and inclusion as its distinct agenda here. As long as it served their interests, the Maoists and other political parties went along with the Europeans.
While Nepal’s immediate neighbors voiced frustration at EU meddling and began blaming it in large part for the open-ended nature of our transition, official Nepal kept largely quiet. This must have impressed upon our EU friends the depths of the silence silver and sponsorship could procure.
Average Nepalis, however, were getting flummoxed by the day. Here is an organization that is so steadily centralizing authority in Brussels that one country has voted to get out and a few others are quietly contemplating doing so. Yet the EU wants Nepalis to devolve even what they don’t have. Almost a resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire in many ways, the EU wants us to prove our commitment to newness by doing as they demand.
Germany and France have always been writing the EU script. As it suits them. After all, didn’t Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Francois Mitterrand legitimize the partylessPanchayat system during the Cold War by visiting us when Khas-Aryas in the Nepali Congress and communist parties were languishing in jail or exile?
They Europeans like to experiment and we’ve long allowed ourselves to become a laboratory. We’re growing sick and tired but the EU is getting ever more emboldened. In the midst of today’s Trumpian vacuum, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron see themselves as the prime custodians of the liberal world order. They want to punch above their weight. But Nepal is a bit too far away and in terrain contested by other global wannabes.
So the Europeans get mad at us, not them. The recommendations were provided in a spirit of partnership, the EU poll mission said in its defense, once the scale of Nepali outrage became apparent. It’s up to Nepal to take them, the statement’s drafters couldn’t resist adding.
Did our collective scream of disgust sound like we were going to take them?
Eew, we’re not gonna take it!
BY MAILA BAJE