The campaign for the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, slated for November 19, has been a low-key affair in Nepal.
With top leaders having confined themselves to their constituencies, there have been fewer mass rallies than in the past, and the candidates are taking to door-to-door campaign to reach out to voters.
The ‘low-key’ campaign, coupled with the air of uncertainty created by parties boycotting the polls and the failure of the last CA, have dampened the public mood.
“There is little enthusiasm for the election,” says a tea shop owner in Kanchanpur, Saptari district. “But it’s my duty to vote, so I’ll vote.”
Election watchers say water, roads, electricity and other development issues have become the main agenda for the elections on November 19, a year and half after the first Assembly lapsed — deadlocked over a federal model, as well as the form of government and a constitutional court the country was going to adopt.
In Siraha -5, which lies in the Madhes region, locals who spoke to The Hindu lamented the lack of basic amenities, especially drinking water.
The constituency has garnered attention because Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” is contesting here.
There is consensus that Mr. Prachanda’s candidacy from Madhes signals the heightened importance the region with half of the total constituencies holds in determining the poll outcome.
National parties are trying to regain the seats they lost to the regional, Madhes-based parties formed in 2007, when a Madhesi-led protest movement compelled the then government to amend the Interim Constitution to include federalism.
But the Madhesi parties — among them Upendra Yadav-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum — have split many times. The national parties hope this, along with the fading memory of the movement, will draw the voters towards them.
Meanwhile, fears of electoral violence linger, despite the Home Ministry claims that the current environment is a lot better compared to 2008.
The first day of the 10-day strike called by the splinter Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and its alliance of 33 small parties brought transport to a halt all over the country; the security personnel defused at least 15 improvised bombs planted in several districts, including at district headquarters of rival Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN-Maoist).
The CPN-Maoist has vowed to continue the strikes until November 19, the day of the second Constituent Assembly polls, unless the elections are called off and a ‘roundtable’ conference held to chart a new political course. In response, the pro-election parties have said they will defy the strikes, as has the nation’s union of businesses.