Bewildered voters perturbed by deteriorating electoral atmosphere

federal and provincial elections

Manoj Karki 
KATHMANDU, Nov 18: ‘No voters are fortunate enough than the Nepali Congress faithful in Chitwan, after voting for the CPN (Maoist Center) in local elections, they now have the opportunity to vote for the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Democratic.’

This was one among many statements in the social media highlighting the confusion that the voters in the country are currently facing, thanks to the unilateral decision of the leaders at the centre to forge so-called ‘alliance’ on the eve of the election to the House of Representatives and the Province Assemblies slated for November 26 and December 7.

In the local elections held in May earlier this year, Nepali Congress decided to support a CPN-MC candidate, the daughter of the party’s supremo for the post of Bharatapur Metropolitan City Mayor and thereby did not field its own candidate for the same. Hence, going by the decision taken by leaders in Kathmandu, NC voters in Bharatpur voted for a person who was in no way related to their party or its principle. Of course, the two parties were then partners in the coalition government.

Even though the party cadres were aghast and angry over the decision, they ultimately voted in favour of the CPN-MC candidate, and did it twice in a ward following a bizarre incident of tampering of ballot papers by party agents, and made sure she won. But as if that was not enough, the same voters now, just six months after the local elections, are being asked to vote not for their own party candidate but a candidate from the Rastriya Prajatatra Party-Democratic for the post of a member to the House of Representatives from Chitwan constituency no. 3.

Interestingly, while doing so, they will be voting against the party supremo of CPN-MC, that they helped last local elections win a mayoral seat for his daughter.
And the alliance continues far and wide, with almost every political party now joining hands with one or more parties to make sure that they win a majority or a seat or two in the federal parliament and the state assemblies. And this has created confusion among the voters, who are not very sure whom they will be voting for as the alliance formation is not uniform across the country.

And just as when the CPN-UML leaders were raising fingers at the NC for forging an electoral alliance with a party that is advocating for reinstatement of monarchy and Hindu state, it decided to do the same in the province no. 1. After being ditched by the NC at the last minute, RPP’s Rajendra Lingdel managed to rope in UML to support him in constituency no. 3 of Jhapa district. The NC had already decided to leave the constituency for him, but local candidate Krishna Prasad Sitoula decided otherwise, and is thereby contesting from his traditional constituency. And hence, the RPP has joined hands with the Nepali Congress in the country, baring province no. 1 where it will be supporting the CPN-UML for its support to leader Lingdel.

As a result, it will be tough task for the voters to remember whom to vote for as they enter the polling booth with the ballot paper in their hands. Furthermore, these were last minutes changes made and made at the will of central leaders, without the involvement of the local level cadres and leaders. Hence, there is already a sense disillusionment among the voters at large, which may in fact lead to a significant number of cross voting this elections.

In the meantime, repeated incidents of bomb blasts taking place targeting candidates has become a matter of concern for voters and candidates alike, with only a week now left for the first round of elections being held on November 26.

A convoy of vehicles, also including a vehicle carrying Nepali Congress senior leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat was targeted with improvised explosive device (IED) in Nuwakot on Friday. One of the vehicles was severely damaged, with six occupants injured. This comes days after a vehicle carrying speaker Onsari Ghartimagar and CPN-MC candidate Barshaman Pun came under similar IED attack in Rolpa. Leftist alliance candidate from Gorkha-2, CPN-MC leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha also had a lucky escape when IEDs were hurled at his vehicle in Gorkha recently.

Tall claims of full-proof security arrangement by the Home Ministry responsible to manage security for the election have been proved wrong, with the sudden rise in a spate of IED attacks across the country. Only today, two IEDs were defused by the Nepali Army in Besisahar, Lamjung, hours before the ruling Nepali Congress was to hold a grand election campaigning event.

Given the atmosphere during the recent local level elections, the developments so far is quite concerning and the government needs to get its act together in making sure that the candidates are able to campaign without any obstruction, and that the voters heading to their respective polling centers do so without any fear to exercise their franchise on November 26 and December 7.