KATHMANDU, Oct 29: “Not being able to cast my vote in the upcoming Constituent Assembly (CA) elections almost makes me feel like I’m not a citizen of Nepal,” says 26-year-old Mona Aditya, who is currently pursuing her studies at the Cornell University in USA. Mona, who’s been following the news on the second CA elections for Nepal, regularly keeps herself updated about the Nepali political scenario, even if she has been away from Nepal. “Having a citizenship should entitle one to having some choice in what happens in one’s country and to be represented in the government. Voting is a citizen’s way of being represented in the government,” she argues.
However for three million of other Nepalis like Mona, who are not living in Nepal due to various circumstances, the civic right of voting is not ensured due to feasibility. Sadly, Nepal doesn’t have a distance voting system and hence this election too shall not see the representation from a huge cohort of Nepalis living abroad.
A student of Technical University of Ilmenau in Germany, Pawan Pokhrel, 29 also expresses his disappointment at not being able to participate in the elections. “I feel sad that I cannot choose my leader, however, even if I could I would have been really confused about whom to vote,” says Pawan who has lost his faith in the ‘same old’ politicians reigning the political field of Nepal at the moment. He’s not content with the second CA election either, as he puts, “I’m sure the same faces of failed politicians will win the elections and I believe they are not true politicians. In my view, they are just unemployed people who either want to earn some money through politics or who just can’t leave politics because they have nothing else to do.”
Mona, on the other hand, shares her discontent at the background of the candidates who have been given eligibility by the Election Commission to run for the elections. “There are a few things that shouldn’t be tolerated at all, like murderers and criminals being allowed to run or represent Nepali people. I dom’t have the confidence that candidates with criminal backgrounds will be eliminated adequately,” she says, adding, “I wish that there was an upper limit to the age of the candidates, to the number of times one can hold a seat in the parliament/CA and to the number of times they can run.”
Disappointment towards political leaders which is leading to apathy towards the November elections is also common. “I don’t support the second CA election as the first election was a big fail and this time too, it’s pretty much the same people running in the election. Unless there is significant change in the political leaders, I believe the change that all the Nepalis expect to see will only be limited to a dream,” says Prakrit Nepal, 20, currently studying at Colby-Sawyer College in the US.
Even if not completely against the happening of the elections, there are those who don’t believe that anything concrete will materialize from the November 19 elections.
“I really don’t have many expectations from the new CA election as it is more likely that the same old people are the candidates standing up for elections again,” says Jivan Sharma, 27, currently living in Germany as a student of University of Ruhr Bochum. However, Jivan says he supports the election process and believes that it is necessary because it’s the only hope to drive the country away from the transition period.
However, it’s not just Nepali youth abroad but youth who are in Nepal who have unwillingly been excluded voting in such an important event of the country.
Anjeet Chudal, 23, is originally a resident of Jhapa who’s been living in Kathmandu to pursue his further studies. Despite being aware and up to date about news regarding the elections and having the will to cast his vote, Anjeet has certain limitations due to which he’ll not be able to vote. “There’s a lot of cost and time involved in going to Jhapa to cast my vote. Firstly, it will cost a minimum of Rs 5,000 for me to go home. There are also other hindrances such as the fact that my college will be running and I can’t afford to miss classes,” he says.
Although not directly involved in the election due to physical boundaries, these young people do have certain aspirations and hopes for the upcoming election.
“I’m not aware of other democratic alternatives available for Nepal at the moment except the CA elections,” says Mona. “I hope to see fair and safe elections, which every political party should cooperate and support in spirit of true democracy. And needless to say, I would like to eventually see the representatives be more accountable to the people who voted for them,” she adds.
To young voters who can exercise their rights, she suggests, “With increased access to internet, it is very easy to find some, if not all, information on the candidates on the internet. If you are young and educated, I encourage you to use the internet and any other resource available to you. Then look at the promises held by the candidates that will be reflected by their life history, criminal records and what they have said versus what they have done in the past.”
Apart from making informed decisions, Mona also believes that voters this time around should give new and younger candidates a chance. “They have more energy and drive. They also understand the aspirations of the majority of the population and have a better capacity to learn. The median population of Nepal is 21.6 years and 39 per cent of Nepalis are under the age of 14 years. We need younger leaders as they represent the majority,” she justifies.
Jivan, on the other hand says, “Opt to vote for those candidates who have some vision and determination rather than simply casting your vote to someone recommended by your seniors or colleagues.” While Pawan advises that when it comes to voting for candidates, in the current situation, the best thing to do would be to choose the lesser evil.
According to the final list of voters published by the Election Commission on Sunday, 12,147,865 Nepalis will be casting their votes on November 19. With no provision for distance voting, casting a vote is almost out of question to about 1.9 million absentee population of Nepal, 44.81 per cent of which is youth between 15 and 24 years (CBS 2011).