The elections for the Constituent Assembly (CA)-II are now over. Results have been announced. Successful completion of the CA polls themselves is good news for the economy. Rise of the liberal economic forces from it has made it a harbinger of prosperity and development. After long gloomy years, the new CA comes with the renewed promise to draft and promulgate the new constitution within a year and pave way for the nation to head towards peace,stability and prosperity. The last CA too had that hope, but unfortunately that didn’t materialize.
In retrospect, it appears that the poll process, the constitution and the functions of earlier edition of the CA (2008) were largely marred by political naivety and immaturity. If one looks at the manifestoes of the 2008 CA election, it is not difficult to discern that the political forces were just flabbergasted by the pace of change and couldn’t structure proper frame to guide the nation forward. The then New Forces, Maoists and Madheshis, had overtly ambitious agenda, whereas the Old Forces like Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML had a sense of compulsion to bow down to the agenda of those New Forces.
But things changed drastically by the time the country arrived at the threshold of the second CA elections in 2013. As evidenced by their recent manifestos, major political forces had become more mature, rationality had prevailed over emotions. Traders of mere selfish, divisive or opportunistic agenda were badly fragmented and most importantly, a sincere realisation to move along the changing paradigms of the world was across the board. There was a race to promise to shun violence and acts of business disruption by calling on bandhs and strikes. Though achieved at a great cost, monetary and opportunity, these achievements are not trivial.
It is a bare fact that Nepal suffered almost two decades of virtually zero development. Since the Maoists launched armed rebellion in February 1996, the resources and focus of the state concentrated to counter it. Hardly any power project, new stretch of road or other significant infrastructure was added during the decade long conflict. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006 ended the conflict, but fears of the investors could hardly be allayed, mainly due to destructive high-handedness of the Maoist-affiliated trade unions, among other uncertainties surrounding the drafting of the constitution. One may argue that we never had a zero or negative nominal GDP growth rate, but the inflation-adjusted real growth rate had never been positive for all those years.
But the approaches, stances and philosophies have transformed for good in recent years, which was reflected in the run-up to the second CA elections. These are the very reasons that led to the successful completion of the election process with as high as whopping 78 percent turn out of the voters. The half battle is won.
On top of it, the electorates gave a very emphatic support to the parties -- Nepali Congress and CPN-UML that exhibited understanding of the global economic order and trend vis-à-vis Nepal’s development priorities and needs. It was the Nepali Congress that had initiated the economic reform and liberalization after restoration of democracy in 1990 and the fruits of it is still reaped by the economy. The then UML government began grassroots level connectivity and infrastructure projects in 1995 that gradually provided market access to the remote hinterlands of the country. These two facets of development helped the Nepali economy to withstand the decade-long conflict and almost equally-long political mayhem after that. The people trusted back to both of these parties, once again giving them almost equal, jointly more than sixty percent of strength in the new CA. People experimented the Maoists once in the last election by making them the largest party in the last CA, but it failed the test. Now condemned to humiliating defeat.
The conclusion of CA election against the widespread suspicion about its success, victory of the parties that believe in democracy and free-market and, rationalization of the forces that were erstwhile destructive ones, indeed raises hope on reigniting the growth process. The stage is all set and, now actors should play the right role before the curtain falls.