India will be looking for peaceful elections in Nepal on Tuesday that could set the stage for the neighbouring country’s political parties to agree on two vital issues that have remained unresolved during the five years of its first Constituent Assembly.
Nepal has been forced into a second round of elections after the Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 failed to agree on two of the most fundamental issues – the nature of the federal state of Nepal and the structure of government.
While the Madhesi parties and the Janajatis want ethnic identity-based federalism, this is totally opposed by the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party (United Marxist Leninist) (UML) who feel that no part of Nepal has a majority of any one community.
Regarding the structure of government, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Prachanda want a presidential form of government, the UML want a Prime Minister who is directly elected, and the Nepali Congress are for a political arrangement similar to the one in India.
Another factor is the breakaway group from Prachanda’s party which is critical of the peace process and announced a political boycott of the elections.
India on its part has tried to give a coherent message – it wants the elections to be held on schedule but does not favour any particular outcome.
With this aim, it hosted four important Nepali leaders holding various political beliefs – Prachanda, Madhav Nepal, Sushil Koirala, and Sher Bahadur Deuba – to reinforce the message about neutrality. This message was also delivered by the External Affairs Minister and the Foreign Secretary when they visited Kathmandu in July and September, respectively.
The current expectation is of a high turnout in percentage terms, though the total size of the electorate might be smaller due to emigration from Nepal.
The India factor is missing in the election except for the breakaway faction from Prachanda’s party. There was a time when Nepal had to cancel a contract for printing its notes in an Indian mint.
On Monday, ballot papers were printed in India which also provided security when they were transported to the India-Nepal border. India has also provided 900 vehicles for accessing remote areas.
Both sides have also activated the standard operating procedure of close coordination and control of any cross-border criminal activities which can get heightened to disrupt the elections.