Special issue - Spotlight on Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections
The Making of Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly
By Krishna Hachhethu, PhD
Polls have opened in Nepal to elect a new Constituent Assembly (CA) expected to finalize Nepal’s protracted constitution making process. A previous CA elected in 2008 was disbanded and the process suspended in May 2012 after it failed to agree on a constitution. 601 seats are to be filled through a parallel electoral system—240 elected via first past the post system, 335 via proportional representation and 26 to be nominated by the government.
With 122 contesting parties (up from 56 in the last elections), 12.1 out of Nepal’s 26 million people registered to vote and over 97% of respondents in a Citizen’s Survey conducted by International IDEA indicating an eagerness to vote in the polls, the long-awaited election is clearly creating a great deal of excitement. Nepal’s Chief Election Commissioner is predicting an 80% turn-out rate while major contesting political parties are promising to deliver the constitution within a year of the elections. While such evidence indisputably suggests the country may finally be waking up from its political inertia, there is still reason for skepticism.
Nepal Country Spotlight
Firstly, Nepal’s political landscape, as seen over the past years, can be very unpredictable. Political parties remain deeply divided on some of the issues that derailed the previous process such as on how to take the country forward in general and the elections in particular. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), a splinter group of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, (UCPN-Maoist) and 33 other parties have launched boycott campaigns often resulting in violence. While this does not raise any security concerns serious enough to disrupt the polls (over 59% of the population still judge the security situation better than during the 2008 CA elections) it does raise anxiety about the general political climate in which the elections are taking place, and what it might degenerate into.
Secondly, there is still a great deal of public disappointment with the political class in terms of how they have managed this process to date. 64% of respondents to the Citizen Survey 2013 say they have no trust for political parties. This seems to suggest that the eagerness to vote and voter intentions so far registered are driven by the absence of a credible alternative. The implication is that Nepal’s three major parties will likely be returned to power, even if with a change in numerical configuration, when the poll results come in. Which are these parties? What are their key positions, strengths and weaknesses? What are the key scenario outcomes and how is it likely to impact the country’s protracted search for a Constitution? Read full article here
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