Kathmandu School Of Law (KSL)
|Demonstration on Electoral Process and Display of Constituent Assembly Materials|
KSL organized a one day special event entitled Demonstration on Electoral Process and Display of Constituent Assembly Materials on 17 June 2007. The program envisaged to facilitate national effort to create an informed mass to conduct free and fair constituent assembly election. The program aimed at educating political activists, civil educators, rights activists, and youth leaders on the constituent assembly, and different electoral modalities and processes including balloting and counting. Major systems demonstrated were First Past the Post, Majority, Preferential, and Proportional systems. Additionally, organizations engaged in constituent assembly civic education had displayed materials developed for that purpose. Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel, Chief Commissioner of the Election Commission inaugurated the program appreciating the effort of academic institution like KSL in this national mission.
Four different programs were conducted simultaneously viz. demonstration on electoral process, display of constituent assembly materials, presentations on different issues of constituent assembly, and organizational presentation by National Election Monitoring Alliance (NEMA). Different shifts were arranged for different target groups. The morning session was targeted to political leaders and members from development partners, two shifts in the day was targeted to youths, general public and civil society members. Transportation facility was also arranged to bring visitors to KSL from the city. About 1800 visitors observed the program.
The program started with the welcome speech by Asst. Prof. Kumar Ignam that was followed by speech from Mr. Anil Kumar Shrestha on behalf of students. Assoc. Prof. Yubaraj Sangroula highlighted on the objectives of the program and summoned for the similar effort from every individual and institutions to facilitate the national mission of constituent assembly. In his speech he urged the government and donor agencies to support and engage university students in massive civic education on constituent assembly. He also urged that citizens should work with a deeper sense of 'citizens for nations'. More voters must be able to participate in constituent assembly election for the desired result of country's transformation to development and bureaucratic stability. He made an earnest request to think in providing access to voting for constituent assembly to non residential Nepalese in foreign countries.
Chief Guest, Mr. Bhojraj Pokharel inaugurated the program and said that election of constituent assembly on November is the dire need of the country and pressure should be built to government and political parties to conduct the election in the estimated time. He also shared about how the election commission will work in near future to provide voter education to youths and other human resources of the country covering a wider range of work area and people. He suggested that similar activity that has been initiated by Kathmandu School of Law should also be conducted in a wide range in the country, which will facilitate in conducting free and fair constituent assembly election. He concluded his remarks by thanking KSL for initiating such program.
Taranath Dahal, Chairman of National News Agency (RSS) thanked KSL for organizing the program of national interest. He highlighted on how media can play important role in educating people about all sorts of issues of the country and encourage maximum people's participation. He emphasized that media is a key agent to inform people and if people and government coordinate with media, it will give multiple results in such national efforts.
After the inauguration,
participants were invited to observe different programs. Some went to
observe demonstration on electoral process, some to observe the display,
and others went to participate in presentations on 'Swiss
Federalism & Comparative overview of
Other Federal States', 'Diversity and Unity',
and 'Proposed Scheme of Federalism' by Benoît MEYER-BISCH, a Swiss Lawyer,
Assoc. Prof. HK Rana and Assoc. Prof. Yubaraj Sangroula respectively.
Major attraction of the program was the demonstration on modalities and processes of different electoral systems arranged in four separate halls. All the rooms were crowded with visitors to observe the graphical and pictorial presentation and simulation prepared by the students and faculties of KSL. Visitors were keen to learn about different electoral systems by observing different electoral systems and asking various questions to the demonstrators.
First Past the Post System
Majority election system
In the present context, mostly debate is ongoing for this system. Basically Nepal hadn't followed this election system and people are not well educated about it. Presenters highlighted on the need of proportional election system as all inclusive in present scenario of Nepal. There was discussion on if the system is pertinent for Nepal and exploring on its merits and demerits. Faculty members also facilitated answering the queries.
The program concluded with the review meeting in which it was discussed that the program explored potentiality of youths to assist the national mission of constituent assembly. The program fulfilled its objective by clarifying a mass of people about different modalities and process and relevance of different electoral systems.
The political scenario is facing crisis to attain legitimacy. Over the last one year, the crisis is
mainly deepening owing to obstinate decline to understand the ‘gravity of the problem’. The
game hatched to ‘prolong the uncertainty’ of the course of unfolding resolution of the crisis is
thwarting the positive transformation of the ‘politics to progress’. The safety of the society is
vulnerable. The breakdown of law and order is serious. The diversity of the population, culture,
geography is gradually marching towards adversely affecting the unity of the country.
In India, for instance, over two dozen civilizations and many languages and ethnic groups have
been able to ‘create it a nation’. Prior to Britis h colonial consolidation, the India as a nation was
not in existence. In fact, several kingdoms existed independently. British rulers unified Indian
states for the purpose of ‘facilitating the revenue collection’ by creating a ‘centralized
government system’. However, the independence movement utilized this development as a boon
to oust ‘empire’, as the colonial domination educated ‘Hindustani’ of importance of unity and
necessity to fight for independence emerging above the ‘regionalism’. Political leaders from
many parts of India under leadership and guidance of Gandhi united to ‘fight against the colonial
rule’ with commitment to ‘build India a democratic’ nation. This scheme thus made ‘democracy’
as the basis of ‘unity of various civilizations, languages and ethnic diversity’. India in the wake
of fight against colonial rule realized that the ‘co-existence and harmony’ of different
civilizations and other diversities could be protected only if the ‘democracy’ was made a
common platform. It was the most prudent ‘vision’ of Ghandi and other leaders. India was thus
declared as a ‘secular state’, which did not recognize any religion or culture as the ‘religion or
culture of India’. Indeed, all civilizations, religions and cultures as well as languages were
recognized as assets of India nation. The democratic principles and institutions were thus made
the ‘basis of India as nation state’.
Another example is the ‘Switzerland’. Switzerland too is a secular state, which has made the
‘democracy’ as the basis of the unity of the nation. Now the question is why Nepal cannot make
the ‘democratic principles and institutions’ as the basis of ‘nation state’. Most importantly, the
political parties have failed to ‘consider the restructuring mission’ from this perspective. Political
parties have failed to ‘win over the trust’ of population with ethnic, linguistic and other
diversities. There are two important issues to consider for ‘giving the discussion of restructuring
of the state’ a definite and meaningful shape. Firstly, the political parties must be aware and clear
on ‘the principle of federality’. Are they going to adopt ‘asymmetrical or symmetrical’ approach
while implementing the plan of ‘federalism’? India has followed the ‘symmetrical model’. In this
model, the powers, authority and privileges of constituent provinces or states are ‘clearly
outlined by the Constitution’, and thus ‘constituent provinces or states’ can possess only those
powers, authorities and privileges that are clearly spelt out in the Constitution. All other residue
powers remain with the ‘central authority’. Canada has adopted ‘both symmetrical and
asymmetrical models. Some provinces in Canada can enjoy only those powers, authority and
privileges that ‘outlined by the constitution’. While some provinces have all those powers,
authorities and privileges’ except those that specifically spelt out as powers, authorities and
privileges of the central authority. In asymmetrical model, to simplify, the central authority’s
powers, authorities and privileges are determined, and outlined precisely, and rest other powers,
authorities and privileges are left for the constituent provinces or states. USA has followed this
model. The concept of ‘autonomy largely follow’ the asymmetrical model.
Another important issue relate to ‘demarcation of the geographical boundaries of provinces’.
There may be several principles to follow while demarcating the ‘boundaries’ of the provinces.
However, while doing so, the question as to why ‘the province’s boundaries are set in that shape
must have a clear answer in the minds of people. Creating a province is thus not merely a matter
of ‘political decision’. One of the most important principles to consider while creating provinces
is the ‘sentiment’ of the people. A territory ge nerally has a ‘sentiment of people’ for
connectivity of the people. It might be a ‘history’, culture, language, civilization, unique
character of geography, and so on. However, the creation of a province, without any sentimental
connectivity, might be doomed to function or ‘emerge as a unit of the state’. The political parties
have also failed to analyze the situation from this perspective.
The idea of creation of provinces in any nation state is necessitated by the need of ‘vertical
distribution of the powers’, which in turn is necessary to ‘consolidate the democracy and prevent
the circumstance of central authority as despotic nation or tyranny’. At this point the remarkable
point to remember is that ‘the restructuring of the nation should be governed by two important
needs, the first being the need ‘of consolidating democracy through vertical distribution of
powers’, and the second being the need of ‘maintaining the secular character of the nation’. The
federalism therefore is not a ‘concept of dividing the nation into communal units’.
The democracy, however, does not function in failure of recognizing the ‘diversity’ as a basis of
the unity of nation. In this context, the restructuring policy of Nepal is a ‘drive to transform the
Nepal from its feudal, monolithic and static characters to a ‘democratic, divergent and
progressive’ nation state. The constitutionalization of the recognition of cultures, languages and
other attributes of population is the only basis of the ‘unity of Nepal’. The restructuring policy
therefore must give attention generous and deep attention to these issues. The character of a
territory to have been settled by a ‘particular ethnic group’ might provide a basis for
‘sentimental’ basis for ‘boundaries of the province. Obviously, there is no danger to ‘determine
the basis of federalism’ on such sentimental grounds. The determination of federalism on this
ground can never mean that ‘the creation of federal unit’ on such ground is going to give a
‘special power to a group of people’. It is so because ‘the democracy does not allow to ‘exclude
people’ on any ground. The determination of the boundaries of a ‘province is to mean a process
of vertical distribution of powers of the state on the basis of ethnic sentimental connectivity’ of
people, but it should never mean in any sense an idea that the ‘vertical distribution of state
powers based on sentimental connectivity’ of the people provides ‘a basis for a group to isolate
or exclude others’ residing in that territory’. The concept of ‘ethnic federalism’ with a sense of
special privilege to a group at the cost of exclusion of other is defective on the basis of principles
of democracy as well as ‘integrity’ of the nation. The powers to devolve to a ‘provincial or state
unit’ are not the ‘special privileges of a group of people’, rather they are the powers of
constituent province to ‘consolidate democracy, progress and protect heterogeneity’ of the
The ‘constitutionalization of the heterogeneity of culture, languages and other similar attributes
with a view to prevent the State being autocratic, discriminatory and monolithic power center,
and to ‘consolidate the freedoms of people with all powers to rule themselves democratically’ are
the basic needs for ‘restructuring the Nepalese state’. Historically, Nepal has been stubbornly
ruled by a ‘elite group’ to the complete exclusion of entire population. The elite group has
imposed a typical culture and religion as the fundamental attribute of the Nepal’s identity. The
federalism is therefore necessary to empower people to ‘have self- governance’. The right to selfdetermination
of a group within a nation thus must be understood as a right to ‘socio-economic
and political empowerment’ as an essential population constituent of the nation. Within a nation,
as opposed to a colony, the group of people has no right to ‘self-determination’ meaning the right
to secede the country. The federalism thus cannot be prelude to ‘a movement to secede’ the
nation. The concept of federalism in Nepal is thus an idea of ‘breaking or eliminating the
political domination of an elite group’, which, by centralizing the powers with a so-called central
authority, has been monopolizing the governance powers to the exclusion of cultural and
linguistic indigenous communities. The scheme of the restructuring should therefore adopt some
principles as indispensable elements for national integrity. Firstly, it should recognize that the
‘equality of all cultures and languages’ is the only basis of the national unity, and for this the
federalism is indispensable. Secondly, in society like Nepal which has been exclusively ruled by
a centralized form of government captured by a group cannot transform to ‘democratic society’
by devolving the powers vertically so as to enable to all groups to exercise the powers to rule.
The federalism is thus necessary to transform Nepal into a ‘nation state’, belonging to every
Nepali equally. Thirdly, the federalism is basis for ‘consolidating the democracy’, without which
the ‘protection of individual liberty is impossible’. Finally, the federalism is means of
‘promoting the individual liberty and freedoms’. To see from this perspective, the scheme of
federalism must be agreed by all population, and its characters need to be set forth by consensus.
Without consensus the ‘scheme of federalism’ might be a source of conflict among people.
(Published in The Kathmandu Post)
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