THE Election Commission’s announcement of the schedule for the 11th parliamentary elections posting the polling for December 23 bears the reflection of the ongoing political divide. The incumbents and partners in the ruling coalition welcomed the announcement. But the parties and alliances in opposition, by and large, rejected it as they all wanted the resolution of all prickly issues centring on the elections. The announcement of the election schedule, which the parties in opposition think premature in that the talks have not yet concluded, means that the elections are going to be held the way the incumbents want and within the bounds of the constitution, which the incumbents have earlier changed unilaterally. The incumbents could change the constitution keeping to their will as they have the required majority in the parliament largely because the 2014 national elections were held in a manner that was flawed in view of a proper democratic dispensation. With all major opposition parties staying off the electoral fray, more than a half of the parliamentary seats, or 153 out of the 300 seats, enough for a party to form the government, were elected uncontested, making the government unrepresentative. The parties in opposition wanted, and still want, the resignation of the government, the dissolution of the parliament and an election-time, party-neutral government.
After much of negation of any election-related discussion with the opposition by the incumbents, electoral dialogues finally happened, spanning a week. The ‘dialogues’ officially ended three days ago, without resolving any of the issues, yet leaving hopes, as the incumbents suggest, for ‘talks’ that could iron out the contentious issues. The dialogues could not resolve the issues as both the incumbents, on the one side, and parties and alliances in opposition, on the other side, firmly stood their respective grounds and neither of them was ready to make any concession and compromise. Yet, the announcement of the election schedule, that too posting the polling too early, has finally sealed the fate of the ‘talks’ too. Contentious issues have all remained contentious. A situation like this has also ruined the citizens’ hope of having to exercise their right to franchise, which could not be ensured in the 2014 national elections, while it has compounded the electoral fray as regards free, fair, credible and inclusive elections. With the incumbents having had its say, well reflected in the announcement of the election schedule, it is now for the parties and alliances in opposition, who have preliminarily rejected the schedule, to see to the issues.
With the elections schedule being announced two days ago, time has not yet been spent away for the resolution of contentious issues centring on the holding, in terms of the manner, mode and timing, of the next general elections. The incumbents, the Election Commission and the parties in opposition, under the circumstances, should work out how the holding of the elections could ensure the participation of major, if not all, political parties in a free and fair manner. They all must also ensure that citizens should exercise their right to franchise, the primary condition for democracy.
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