Politics And Economics Of Local-Unit Elections
Politics And Economics Of Local-Unit Elections
Siddhi B Ranjitkar
The government of Nepal set the May 15, 2017 the date for holding the elections for electing more than 35,000 officials for running the 719 local governments: municipals and village councils. Political parties have this opportunity of winning the people’s votes for their political agenda. The Election Commission alone is going to spend more than NPR 10 billion and the candidates and the political parties almost 15 times this amount. So much of money injected primarily in the rural areas within almost two months would certainly stimulate the economy.
After almost 20 years, elections for the local governments are going to be held following the Constitution of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Unlike in the past, the local governments will have a sweeping power, as the new constitution has delegated most of the power of the district administration to them. Local governments will have the power to issue citizenship and landownership certificates, too.
The local-unit elections provide the political parties with the opportunity of demonstrating their presence in the local governments and their influences on the grassroots level people. They could take their political agenda and win the people’s mandate for the agenda. They could put their agenda on the ballots and see what would happen. This is the game played by rules.
However, the Madheshi Front, and two Maoist political parties have declared that they would stay out of the elections. Are they doing good for the country and them, too? Certainly not, as they would cause a political confusion to the common folks not going to the elections.
Leaders of the Madheshi Front have said that they would not participate in the elections until the amendment to the Constitution would be done to their satisfaction whereas the two Maoist parties: one is of Vaidhya and another of Biplav did not accept the new constitution and they were for the continuous revolution.
Both the Madheshi leaders and Vaidhya and Biplav Maoists have been in a minority. Nobody could wait a few dissidents for holding the elections. However, these so-called political leaders that have lost their political foundation in the general elections held to the last Constituent Assembly did not want to use the democratic means to receive the people’s mandate for their agenda.
Madheshi leaders have threatened the majority of the political parties to launch a violent movement as if they did not have any peaceful and democratic means to achieve the goals they have set. The peaceful means they have certainly to achieve their goals are the elections. The violent means are certainly the regional shutdown or even the national shutdown but such activities would not help them to achieve their goals.
People would not tolerate any shutdown for more than a few days any more, as the common folks would not tolerate any long term shutdown causing their economic losses, and they knew that those political guys had been for grabbing power rather than doing anything good for the common folks. They could not anymore shut down the border as they claimed to have done in the past anymore. The government would use the armed police force or if needed even the army to protect the means and livelihood of 30 million Nepalese.
Maoists could wait forever for an environment the political parties would probably create conducive to any armed revolution, as such an environment would not probably be available, as the people have the peaceful means the new constitution has provided them with to achieve any goal they set for.
Once, the local-unit elections were held successfully and local governments were in place then the local folks could resolve their political social and economical problems. They would not need to shut down the business of the common folks and they would not need to take up the arms to force any regime to meet their demands, as the local people themselves would become powerful to resolve their problems.
So, not participating in the upcoming elections, Madheshi and Maoist leaders would lose the opportunity of showing their presence in the local governments. They would miss to have their local governments in other words they would not have even any say in the local governments. Then, they would not have any other option except for resorting to the violence of shutting down others’ business forcibly denying the fundamental human rights of the common folks, and the Maoists to take up arms. They would not be able to repeat the same miracle they did in the past.
Madheshi leaders might go to the terai and called on the people to shut down their business, and Maoists could go to any remote village and prepare for the armed revolution but the current government has been different from any government of the past. So, this government has the rights to enforce the people’s constitution and enforce the law and order by any possible available means.
The two giant neighbors also want the enforcement of the constitution, as only the enforcement of the constitution would bring the lasting peace and political stability. So, the neighbors would not have any sympathy or empathy for anybody creating political disturbances in Nepal. So, Madheshi leaders and Maoists would hardily anticipate anything from the neighbors, and other international community, too.
Consequently, Madheshi leaders and Maoists would probably lose their existence after the upcoming elections both not participating in the elections and not being able to make any political dents through another movement or revolution. However, this is not the political obituary of those political leaders not participating in the elections but this is simply the possible prediction any political analysts could do.
The Election Commission is going to spend more than NPR 10 billion on the local elections within two months. Most of the expenditure would be for paying the daily and travel allowances to the officials going to hold the elections, for printing ballot papers, for buying a few new ballot boxes, and for transporting the ballot boxes.
Officials going to hold elections in the rural areas would create demands for foods, drink and lodging. Transporting ballot boxes and ballot papers would create jobs for porters in the remote areas where vehicle could not reach, and even for the aircrafts where porters would take weeks to reach. Printing ballot papers would create a lot of jobs for the state-owned printing company, too. The 719 local governments would need another 10,000 additional officials to run the administration, and deliver the public services to the local people. The job opening would be considerable at the local units.
More than 35,000 elected official jobs are opened up in the elections. Probably, more than ten contenders would be for each job. In other words the number of candidates would be 350,000 at least. The Election Commission has set the rate of expenditure from NPR 700,000 to 100,000 for each candidate depending on the locations. So, if we take the average of these two figures means NPR 400,000 each candidate is going to spend in the elections, then the total amount of the money spent would be NPR 140,000,000,000. The actual expenditure might be much more.
Candidates would be spending the money mostly on foods, drink, travel and lodging. The elections would create huge demands for rice, eggs, chicken, goat meat, pork and buff. Soft drinks, tea, and locally brewed hard drinks would be in a considerable demand, as every evening would be the time for celebration for the political cadres.
Except for the terai districts most of the hill and mountain districts are the food deficit areas. Porters or vehicle transporters would have a lot of jobs of transporting rice, eggs, chicken, goat meat, pork and buff, too. Surely, traders would have a lot of good businesses, too.
Local tea stalls would have a lot of work to serve tea and boiled eggs almost for the whole day, as political cadres would consume tea with hard-boiled eggs or biscuits while stopping at the tea stalls on the way to campaigning for their political bosses.
In the evening, the political cadres would settle in lodges with restaurants. Lodge and restaurant owners would have good businesses as they would need to serve the political cadres the meal called ‘masu bhat’ means rice with meat: the most loved dish for lunch or dinner in Nepal, certainly with the locally brewed hard drinks, and even the imported ones, too. Next morning, restaurants would need to serve tea with hard-boiled eggs and biscuits, then again ‘masu bhat’ for the lunch.
Local caterers, porters, and traders would make handsome amount of profit in these elections. Cadres of political parties might make money but only the shrewd ones, however, most of them would have ‘masu bhat’ and drinks for at least a month.
Everybody would be the winner in these elections except for the candidates losing the elections. They not only lose the election but also the money they have spent and might be even the status in their respective political party, too. So, the most intelligent politicians won’t accept the party tickets unless they are sure to win the elections because the elections are so expensive in term of the funding required for the campaign and the cost of losing it.
March 1, 2017