PRITAM BHATTARAI, KATHMANDU, Sept 20
September 18, 2017 has been marked as much important day in Nepal’s history of democracy. The third and final phase of local elections has been concluded peacefully, filling the around 20 years of void of elected representatives at local levels.
Despite suspicion of uncertainty about the third round of polls in large part due to extreme reluctance of the disgruntled political parties in the beginning to become part of the polls putting forth their demands, the elections took place with their prompt participation, and became a huge success.
The Province 2 witnessed 77 percent voter turnout, a highest in the two phases, reports said. A matter of pride is that no unwanted incidents occurred, while people promptly cast their vote.
Successful conclusion of the polls indicates the opening of the door for full enforcement of the new federal democratic republic constitution achieved through a long struggle.
More, it has also increased the likeliness that other two elections—House of Representatives and State Assemblies — will also take place on time.
The two elections are scheduled for November 26 and December 7, and to ensure the polls, the Parliament on September 4 had endorsed the bill related to the elections.
The Supreme Court had also on September 4 issued a mandamus to conclude all the elections by January 21, 2018 for full enforcement of the new constitution.
Although the constitutional document has been passed with almost 90 percent of lawmakers in Parliament, a significant chunk of the populace of the southern plain, Tarai-Madhes is yet to own it entirely.
They from the very day of the promulgation of the constitution are protesting the constitution putting forth the demands regarding citizenship issues, provincial boundaries, representation in the Upper House.
The results of the protest were huge. The Tarai saw the months-long protest, resulting in over 50 deaths, and the Indian side imposed an undeclared trade blockade, triggering a humanitarian crisis.
India said the constitution failed to accommodate all including the Madhesi community.
Over the period so far since the constitution was promulgated, there was a change in government four times including this incumbent government, with late Sushil Koirala, KP Sharma Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and sitting Sher Bahadur Deuba becoming the executive head of the state.
Each successive government were formed with the commitment to accommodating all groups in the constitution, and their main priority would be to address the demands of unhappy groups.
However, no government kept its word. The constitution was amended two times just in a bid to address the demands of the dissenting groups.
The amendment proposal registered in Parliament failed after a majority of lawmakers in Parliament stood against it. It has ended, at least at present, the possibility of amending the national charter.
However, the constitution is a dynamic document, and can be amended over time and as per the need.
Yet the disgruntled groups had gone to vote with their demands on the agenda, which will help them have a greater say in getting their demands addressed once their demands are accepted by the people.
The results will come out soon.
In a federal setup, local levels are invested with more rights so as to make the grassroots democracy felt. It is like shifting power to local levels from Singha Durbar under this new form of governance.
For the past 20 years, people at local level were facing hardship in the absence of elected representatives. Corruption was rampant, while development work was sluggish.
People had to face difficulties to get government services like registration of marriage, and birth among others. No elected representative was there to take up their concerns with the centre, neither to shoulder responsibilities of the outcome of all inconveniences done to the people in their absence.
In case of a natural disaster for instance, the government would feel difficulty in extending relief to victims in the absence of local representatives. It would also become difficult to manage mobilise human resources, or relief materials in their absence, while victims would suffer more.
The value and importance of elected representatives was evident in the recent flooding in Jhapa however. Newly elected local representatives promptly came forward, and involved in rescuing flood victims, and distributing relief materials, much to the relief of the victims.
It indicates how much the local level is in need of elected representatives responsible for whatever happens at local level. “Now the local elections have been concluded. It seems development work will accelerate, and local people will feel a wave of democracy in a true sense,” said Niraj Mandal, a resident of Mahottari, who works as a medical representative in Janakpur.