Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nepal Elections: Reason to Smile or More Reasons to Despair?

Been a while since I last wrote. Perhaps I was fed up with the situation in Nepal. The elections seemed like a dream and things just appeared to be stagnating.

Then the unthinkable happened. The elections did take place. And all indications point toward an empathic victory for the Maoists. Some people seem to be surprised by the Maoist victory, or at least by the margin. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I saw it coming (after all I predicted that elections would not happen in the near future), but the results do not surprise me at all.

Elections are all about energizing your bases and pulling votes away from the swing voters. Each party has a core base that is usually certain to vote for that party and no one else. For example, if I run in an election, my core base would be my immediate family (I am not into politics, remember!). And, for a party or an individual to win, the core base must come out in droves and vote for them.

Now let’s look at whose base was the most energized. The Nepali Congress appeared to take all its cues from the Maoists, compromising on many of its moderately-leaning values, including its position on monarchy. That surely would not energize its core base of moderate voters who, I suspect, are generally traditional and without much desire for radical changes.

The UML’s base is the progressive, left-leaning population that wants radical change. This base is highly energized. The problem, though, is, they are equally, if not more, energized by the Maoist rhetoric. After all, they have seen their UML comrades squander many opportunities by not being able to take and/or stick to a specific position.

Then there are the Maoists. Their core is always energized. After all, it’s supposed to be the culmination of years of struggle for a focused cause. They are not going to vote for anybody else. Instead, they garner the support of much of the left-leaning population.

Just to prove my point, look at the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). For good or bad, for right or wrong, their whole identity is tied to the king and monarchy. And they gave up their loyalty to the king. Now, why would anyone vote for them? If people want change, they have a clear choice – the Maoists, with whom the RPP can never compete. If people want status quo, they are not nearly energized enough to go out and vote.

Hence, the Maoists win by a big margin. Now we are beginning to hear about fear and intimidation tactics adopted by the Maoists. Well, even if it is true, nobody said anything on the day of the election or the next day. That allegation, in light of the astounding results, seems weak at best.

The big question now is how the Maoists will rule. Will they relinquish their promises to fit in the mainstream and renounce violence, or will they go back to their old ways of fear, intimidation and threats? Logic says that in today’s world, building a North Korea-like communist state is not only impractical, but extremely difficult. After all, if it were that easy, wouldn’t we still see King Gyanendra smiling from the grand halls of his palace?

I think there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. With such a clear mandate, if the Maoists rule with integrity, unbiased judgment and good intentions, good days might be ahead for Nepal. However, history says that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If there is a need to despair, we can always do that if hopes start fading again. But, for now, I choose to be optimistic and am willing to see, without any preconceived notions, how the events unfold in the coming days and months.


Anonymous said...

You are right. Optimism is the need of the hour in Nepal. Hopefully all the bad times are behind us.

Carlos said...

US support for the monarchy and the RNA is directly responsible for most of the damage in Nepal in the past 12 years. Were it not for US military aid the people’s democratic movement in Nepal would have occurred in 1990 or so. Remember Ranee Komal ordering the RNA to open fire on unarmed demonstrators????? Remember that Aunt Jemima Colon Powell grandstanding the US $12M military aid package – bribe to the King – some years ago.

The US IS the terrorists in most of the world especially Nepal. Oh yeah, the Brits, esp. Bush’s poodle Tony Blair can go screw themselves also.

Anonymous said...

I like your idea about being optimistic. But it is very difficult with the types of people that are involved. God knows what is going to happen.

Reemas said...

Anyway, in who's control is the army right now?


bikram achhami said...

i liked your post about nepal.there are many adorable and special places on nepal.
Nepal Beauty we should be proud of it and utilize the gift properly.