A hillside in Udayapur (the District of which Gaighat is the municipal center)
The past month or so in Nepali politics would give the most dramatic of soap operas a run for its money. Unfortunately, the outcome hasn’t been happy, the characters aren’t fictional, and the stakes are very high. The cliffhanger ending of last chapter is that on 5 October the elections scheduled for 22 November were officially canceled, supposedly to be rescheduled at some unidentified future date.
When I decided to stay in Nepal this semester instead of returning to the Goldman School it was for better or for worse. I was fully prepared for the election not to happen – there was even a precedent for this as the election had been previously postponed. However, despite bumps in the road things for the election were moving forward and the optimism in the air was tangible. The Election Commission had put out regulations, a crew of trainers was being prepared to fan across the country to educate the masses about election procedures, and the lists of candidates were about to be submitted by the parties. Somewhere along the way people began to believe that though it might not be of the highest quality, the election was going to happen.
Then suddenly the Maoist Party (which is a key part of the fragile 7-party interim government alliance) issued an ultimatum that if the 22 concerns they presented were not satisfactorily addressed by the other 6 parties they would pull out of the alliance and actually “agitate” AGAINST the election. No one believed they would really do this. After waging a revolution for 10+ years, signing a peace agreement, and participating in the 7-party government for less than a year, everyone assumed that they were using scare tactics as a negotiation technique. It turned out their threats were not hollow.
Sunrise over Anapurna 2 and Fishtail Mountains from Dhampusa (during a trek near Pokhara)
The Maoist pull-out from the government started unraveling the proverbial sweater. Ultimately, the election was postponed in order to keep the Maoists in the government, under the guise of creating more time to address their 22 point memorandum. (There is extensive analysis that neither the Maoists nor several other major political parties actually wanted the election because they will likely lose some of their parliamentary seats, but there is no way to directly confront that).
Civil society had been hoping that despite these power dynamics there was enough domestic and international pressure to ensure the elections would be held. It was heartbreaking to witness people realize that despite years of intense activism their efforts were again insufficient. All stakeholders from Nepali NGO workers to members of the International community have strained to regain their balance and figure out what to do next. Without anything tangible coming yet from the government (like a new date for the election) people have been struggling to find something new to organize themselves around…
Sunset on a field in Gaighat
Posted By Nicole Farkouh
Posted Nov 6th, 2014