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Editorial: No election, this

Editorial: No election, this

Periodic elections give the electorate a chance to choose between candidates who offer a competing set of competencies and ideologies. Or so we would like to believe. But people’s right to make informed choices in the upcoming local polls could be curtailed after the five parties in the ruling coalition fought among themselves to get their candidates on the ballot paper. The brawl was particularly intense in major cities like Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Pokhara and Janakpur. Coalition partners were also fighting tooth and nail over other candidacies. 

But isn’t competition the essence of all elections? Yes and no. It would have been wonderful to see the parties fighting on behalf of competent candidates. What we rather saw was that the argument was not at all over the merits of individual contestants but rather over whether the wife or brother or financier of this or that top political leader should have been picked. These disputes had become so bitter that many in the ruling coalition were in favor of putting off local polls if they could not agree on common candidates.

Even if elections are now a near certainty, those who win important mayorships are likely to be chosen based on their party affiliation rather than competence. Most of the Nepali electorate is still not mature enough to vote for candidates from outside the major parties. So even as we all like to blame the major parties for robbing us of our right to have good mayors and municipal heads, a little introspection might also be warranted.

Of course, people also consider that if they elect, say, an independent mayor, he or she will not be allowed to work freely in the politically-steeped post-election milieu. Yet that is a poor excuse to keep voting for those who time and again disappoint—and this applies to the parties now in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition. If people vote for clean and competent folks irrespective of their political affiliations, the parties in the future will also be bound to select better candidates.