The importance of this day cannot be overstated. Today, in the second and easily the more important phase of the federal and provincial elections, 45 districts go to the polls, to elect 128 MPs to the federal assembly and 256 MPs to the seven provincial assemblies. Nearly 85 percent of all contested seats are being decided in the second phase. If today’s elections are a success, then Nepal can be said to have taken a decisive step towards the conclusion of the peace and constitution process that started with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006. The second phase will also mark a formal end of the over decade-long political transition. This is why it is so important for people to go out and vote today. It is now up to the sovereign people of Nepal to once again show their abiding faith in the democratic process and their firm rejection of violence and extremism. With that, Nepal’s long struggle to have a constitution written by a popularly elected Constituent Assembly will have been vindicated and the new constitution will get a ringing endorsement. These should be reasons enough to vote. But there are more.
These are the first federal and provincial elections in Nepal and as such the new federal setup will come into operation only after these elections. This new setup will help bring essential services like education and healthcare to people’s doorsteps. With the new election laws barring the tabling of a no-confidence motion against a government before two years, and with the representation in parliament of only those political parties that get over three percent of total votes, these elections could also be a harbinger for the long-desired political stability. But it is not just the people who have a duty to fulfill today. It is up to the government, the Election Commission and the security forces to together ensure that people get to vote fearlessly. Recent incidents of bomb attacks, even in the heart of the national capital, have somewhat dented public confidence in law and order. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has not helped the security caused by his failure to appoint a home minister, who would otherwise have been in charge of all poll-related security arrangements. And we can only hope that the Election Commission has learned from the reported cases of absentee ballots in some places during the first phase.
The commission says counting of the ballots cast in the first phase will start immediately after voting stops today at 5 pm. Counting for the second phase, it assures, will also start at the earliest feasible time. The commission would greatly enhance its image if it can do so. The political parties, especially those that don’t do so well, for their part, should show the magnanimity to concede defeat if observers deem the elections largely free and fair. The Maoist party left a bitter taste in the mouth of Nepalis when it refused to accept public verdict expressed in the second CA elections. We expect better of our democratic parties. There is palpable excitement going into the elections today. But all the stakeholders need to play their parts responsibly to make these elections a success. Here is to the start of an era of more stable, peaceful and prosperous Nepal.