Concern over election security as nation braces for crucial poll

election security, federal and provincial elections

Deep Raj Sanyal
A spate of attacks targeting the election candidates and their poll campaign over the last few days has created some misgivings about the federal and provincial elections scheduled for this November 26 and December 7.

Although these sporadic incidents of IED explosions carried out by the anti-election political group are apparently done with the intention of creating a fear psychosis among the general public and dissuading the voters from participating in the election besides intimidating the candidates, this might be enough to vitiate the election itself, if not dealt with stringently and effectively.

In some places the anti-election group has also looted the voter education materials from the voter educators deputed by the Election Commission. This shows that the attacks are directed not only against the political parties’ election campaigns and their candidates but also on the voter educators. Leaders and cadres of both the leftist alliance and democratic alliance have come under such attacks. The latest such incident is the phone call by some miscreants that a bomb has been planted at the Supreme Court building, which turned out to be a hoax. The hoax call however disturbed the court hearings and created fear.

The government has started stepping up security measures following these incidents. Prime Minister and Home Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has directed the security bodies to take all measures to beef up security in view of the approaching elections. He and the Election Commission have instructed for a review of the security strategy for the polls, if required.

There is no doubt that the twin elections are crucial cornerstones ensuring the full implementation of the Constitution of Nepal. The local elections, which were held successfully despite initial misgivings, are the first step towards consolidating and institutionalizing democracy at the local level. The conduction of the House of Representatives and State Assembly elections this time would likewise effectively bring the constitution into its full implementation thereby institutionalizing the new federal set-up in the country.

The successful conduction of the election will also ensure the conclusion of a painful and protracted political transition.
It is in this context that these elections are considered vital for laying the foundation of the federal democratic republican system and it is important that they are held in a free, fair, credible and fear-free manner ensuring the maximum voter turnout. As is said elections are the lifeblood of a democracy, it is the utmost responsibility of the government and for that matter the state to make this democratic exercise impeccable from every aspect. The government and all the state apparatuses concerned have reiterated their commitment for the same.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has stated that the home administration was committed and ready to guarantee the people’s right to vote in a peaceful and fearless atmosphere. “The sporadic anti-election incidents taking place in the country will be checked and stringent security ensured to the political parties, candidates, voters, media and the ordinary public,” the Ministry stated in a statement here on Tuesday. As always, the local administration is expected to receive necessary support from all in this regard.

According to the Ministry, the final phase of the security action is taking place for the pre-election period in managing security for the first phase of election and a three tier security arrangement has been made for all the polling centers. Other security personnel have also been mobilized as per the need. The Home Ministry has been involved in information collection, analysis and exchange, and accordingly implementing precautionary and defensive activities, it is stated.

The role of the political parties and the civil society also becomes paramount in creating the election environment. The political parties and their leaders and cadres have not been perturbed at all in spite of the efforts by the forces opposed to the election to spread fear among the people and the election candidates so as to disturb the election itself. This should be considered as a good omen for the nation’s journey ahead on the path of democracy, federalism and republican system. The general public also has not given much attention to these untoward anti-election activities. On the other hand, they are enthusiastically waiting to cast their votes.

Even the group that is opposed to the election should not neglect the public sentiment. Nobody should forget that the people are the ultimate deciders of the destiny of any political party in a democracy. Their support is vital for any party’s existence. Any political party’s status and credibility is decided through elections. It does not behoove any party that calls itself to be the people’s true friend to be involved in anti-election activities and any kind of violence. This will only aggravate the problems in the country which has suffered from conflict, unemployment, want, illiteracy, poverty and backwardness.

To carry out violent activities to foil the election cannot be considered rational in any sense. It is not good to further aggravate the country’s suffering by undermining the elections that are considered to open the gate to the country’s economic development and prosperity. It would only be a political hara-kiri.

It is the responsibility of the state to ensure security for the election and the government is actively working for the same. It is the duty of all the political parties also to extend cooperation to the government to help create an environment conducive for holding the elections in a free, fair and fear-free environment by consolidating the security. It is also the call of time.