Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Fall Guy Isn’t Tripping Yet

The pre-poll rancor proceeds apace on two levels. Who was responsible for pushing the Baidya Maoists out of the electoral arena? And, second, which party among the principal mainstream contestants really does not want the polls to take place now the most?
Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist chairman Mohan Baidya, like most Nepalis, probably recognizes how both trains of thought are in a sense chugging along one track. Are we really expected, Maila Baje wonders, to sit here and believe the Nepali Congress, Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist are engulfed in despair that the Baidya Maoists have decided to boycott the elections?
Or that they are really afraid his alliance (which for all practical purposes is the Baidya party) might subvert an exercise they wanted so desperately that they had to deploy the military?
The elections are a formality that must be pursued as evidence that Nepal has both peace and a process driving it after it escaped the clutches of the monarchy. The exercise, more importantly, is meant to mollify the legions of do-gooders around the world who aren’t supposed to be anywhere close to the polling booth but believe they have all the prescriptions.
Few Nepalis, if instant online surveys and casual conversations are anything to go by, expect the next constituent assembly to write a new constitution. Prominent leaders are claiming with a straight face that the elections will be successful because the international community wants them to be.
Other top leaders are candidly asking us not to worry because the constitution could be enacted through referendum should agreement elude the drafters this time as well. (Are they going to disagree with the draft but come out with one anyway? Or they going to come out with multiple drafts and ask the people to choose from among them?)
The three principal parties each claim they will come out on top. But each one is mired in internecine battles within. Individual leaders – senior, junior, self-appointed and catapulted ones, alike – are more alarmed by their party rivals’ prospects than they are imbued with confidence in the prospects of their triumph.
What all this means is that, collectively, no one is sure which way the wind will blow. Even Jimmy Carter can’t expect to affirm an uncontested stamp of approval this time. The best thing the big parties think they could do is postpone the elections. But that’s a no-no for the international stakeholders.
The obvious fall guy isn’t showing signs of tripping. Baidya, having rebuffed invitations to the top table via the backdoor, is carefully positioning his alliance for a peaceful boycott. Now, that could mean anything – ranging from sitting out in the wilderness to become the chief critic of whatever the winners do end up drafting, to reinforcing the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal in a united front against gyrations choreographed elsewhere.
So, if the big parties still want to delay the polls, they will have to find some other excuse credible enough to the international community. Might something like popular apathy work? Heck, the parties could use their own supporters to organize anti-election rallies to force the rest of the world to step back, all in the name of the peace process.