Himalayan verdict

The defeated Maoists should, for their own interest, accept the results of Nepal's election.\

As results pour in, Nepal must be congratulated for successfully holding its second election to a Constituent Assembly (CA) since April 2008. The sense of relief in Kathmandu and among international observers owes to the fact that this election, postponed since November 2012, was held against all odds. The backdrop to the November 19 polls has been years of misgovernance, political chaos and a constitutional vacuum. Since the democratic transition of 2006, Nepal has had six prime ministers ó one from the Nepali Congress, two from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), two from the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and, finally, the chief justice himself. Public faith in the ability of the old CA and its constituent parties to deliver a constitution for the newly created Nepali republic (May 2008) had steadily eroded ó proved right when the CA failed to write the constitution ó and this popular cynicism was visible in the run-up to these polls, let alone the threat of violence from non-participants, particularly the breakaway Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. That the election went ahead nevertheless, with a more than 70 per cent turnout, is a significant achievement.

It is, however, too soon to celebrate. The results and trends so far for the 240 seats under the first-past-the-post system show the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML way ahead of the UCPN-M, which was the largest party in the last CA. If these results are replicated for the 335 seats under the proportional representation system, it would mean an overwhelming defeat for the Maoists, whose chief Prachanda has lost his Kathmandu seat. The Maoists' rejection of the results has the potential to throw the entire electoral process and its aftermath into disarray, and resurrect memories of the decade-long insurgency. The people had reposed their faith in Prachanda and his party in the last election. They appear to have looked elsewhere this time. That is an elementary lesson in democratic politics that the Maoists have to learn. Nor is it only the Maoists who have suffered a setback. Most parties contesting on a radical or ethnic platform, some with sizeable numbers in the last CA, seem to have done poorly.

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