By Sanjaya Dhakal
Ek Jug Ma Ek Din (One day in an era) - is the much borrowed line from a poem of late poet Gopal Prasad Rimal to describe the Constituent Assembly (CA) election.
And the day has arrived. Polling centers across the country have opened from 7 am Thursday allowing the 17.6 million registered voters to cast their ballot that is expected to shape the destiny of their nation.
The CA election is so historic that it is expected to change the face of the nation - which till date has always been a monarchical one in one form or the other - by voting out the 240-years old Shah dynasty's rule in favour of a federal democratic republic.
Election Commission (File photo)
In fact, the fate of the monarchy was sealed much earlier when the major political parties - who are expected to hold their mandate with this election - had decided that the first meeting of the elected CA will implement their decision to vote out the institution by simple majority.
Apart from deciding on monarchy, the CA will also herald a number of epoch-making events in the history of Nepal.
The CA is expected to write a new constitution whereby the country will choose the path of federal and inclusive regime.
The CA, which was promised to the people of Nepal way back in 1950s, had not been held up until now.
The CA will also formalise the entry of Maoist rebels into the mainstream multiparty democratic dispensation. That will be an icing on the cake of peace process, which started in earnest after the people threw out an autocratic rule through street demonstrations in April of 2006.
But there are still many pitfalls on its path. Apart from the fluid security situation – marked by sudden outburst of violence in Dhading, Surkhet, and Dang districts on the eve of the polling day – there are other risks as well. The first being how credibly the polls are conducted. Given the incidents of intimidation and attacks that continued till the polling day in many parts of the country – particularly by the Maoists and their supporters – it will be an uphill task for the Election Commission (EC) to hold it in 'free, fair and impartial' manner.
The second danger lies in the results – whether the Maoists will wholeheartedly accept the results of the election in case it is not up to their expectations. Conflicting remarks have been made by senior Maoist leaders on this issue with some of them openly arguing that they would lead another revolt if they are defeated 'by conspiracy.'
Narayanhiti palace. (File photo)
Things will not be clear till the results of the elections are firmly established – which the EC has said could take up to three weeks.
Another imponderable is how the monarchy will react if the push actually comes to the shove.
Then, there will be apprehensions and nail-bitings among the two giant neighbours of Nepal – India and China – who will be watching every turn of events carefully.
Festival of Election
For the time being, the whole nation and every Nepalese living in every nook and corner of the world, will be excitedly following the developments.
Voting for the first time in last one decade, the voters, this time, will be casting two ballots each – one under First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) and another under Proportional Representation (PR) categories.
Of the total 601 members of the CA, 240 will be elected in direct elections from 240 constituencies while 335 will be elected from among nationwide votes on PR basis. The remaining 26 will be nominated by the cabinet.
A total of 55 parties are taking part in CA election. 54 parties submitted closed-list for PR election. Of them, only 11 parties have fielded PR candidates in more than 30 percent seats. Only those parties fielding in more than 30 percent need to abide by the rule of reservation for women, Madhesis, Dalits, Janajatis, backward regions and other groups.
PM Koirala (File Photo)
A total of 3970 candidates – 367 women and 3580 men – are in the fray for FPTP election. A total of 5701 candidates including one half of women, nearly two thousand Madhesis, over 600 Dalits, over 2000 Janajatis, and nearly 200 from backward regions and over 1700 from other groups are in the fray for PR election.
The EC has informed that 20.4 million ballot papers of 240 different kinds (for each constituency) for FPTP and 20.8 million ballot papers of single kind for PR will be used for the election.
Likewise, sixty-one different kinds of election materials will be used.
There will be 20,880 polling centers in 9829 different places in this election. Each center will have between 5 and 13 polling staffs. In total, 234,000 polling staffs will be deployed.
There are 17.611 million voters in total – 8.888 million male and 8.73 female. The district with maximum number of polling centers is Syangja-1 with 131 centers. The constituency with maximum number of voters is Gulmi-2 with 104,888 voters. In a polling center in Lali Gurans primary school in Chame VDC of Manang district, there are only 23 voters.
The CA election this time has also attracted an unprecedented number of domestic and international observers. There will be over 80,000 domestic election observers representing 148 different organizations at national and local level. Likewise, 856 international observers will also be deployed across the country.
CPN-Maoist chairman Prachanda (File photo)
In Kathmandu-1 constituency, the EC will for the first time in nation's history, employ Electronic Voting Machines. The constituency includes ward numbers 10, 11, 32 and 34 of the Kathmandu metropolitan city.
The total cost of conducting the election from the announcement of election till declaration of results is expected to be Rs 2.73 billion for EC.
This amount does not include a couple of billions allocated for security purposes.
The Nepal Police and Armed Police Force have been deployed to provide security cover to each of the polling booths. The Nepali Army (NA) and Maoists' army will remain confined in barracks as per the arms agreement.
In each booth, policemen equipped with weapons and communication equipment have been posted. Besides, helicopters have been kept on standby in six different places across the country to provide aerial support should there be any need.