Mon, Nov 18, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Nepal hopes polls will bring working coalition


The residents of landlocked Nepal go to the polls tomorrow to choose from more than 100 political parties in an election that is not expected to produce a winner that is strong enough to deal with the country’s deep-rooted problems.

Poverty, fuel shortages and corruption — and the lack of a constitution — have been the overwhelming features of a nation that appears to be sinking deeper into turmoil by the day.

“What is the use of voting for these same old faces who have done nothing for the country and only fought among themselves for their own benefit,” said Pema Gurung, a vegetable vendor in Kathmandu.

Like many Nepalis who have grown weary of the political dysfunction, she did not even bother registering to vote.

The goal of tomorrow’s election is to name a 601-member Constituent Assembly tasked with writing the constitution — which is supposed to cover the Himalayan country of 27 million.

Nepal has been through this process before. A previous assembly was tasked with writing the constitution in 2008, following the end of a 10-year Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy.

However, the assembly was riven by infighting and never finished its work. The result is a power vacuum that has left the country without a proper constitution for nearly seven years and which has stalled badly needed development and aid projects.

Some of the disagreements center on whether to divide the country into a federal system based on ethnic groups or strictly by geography. The parties mostly squabble over who gets to lead the country.

And the prospects do not look good for this election, with Surya Prasad Shrestha, a former chief election commissioner, saying there is “no way” a single party will win a majority.

“It appears that a hung parliament is inevitable because the bigger parties have lost their grip and smaller parties are mushrooming. There is bound to be instability,” Shrestha said.

No matter the result, writing a constitution is difficult because each clause requires approval from two-thirds of the assembly, in a country with more than 100 ethnic groups and languages.

The United Communist Party of Nepal Maoist, which gained the most votes in the last election, the Nepali Congress and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal are three of the groups seeking power.

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