The idea of democracy, for me, only remained as a text book subject until the recent constituent assembly election of Nepal. During this election, I not only exercised my voting rights but also actively campaigned for an independent candidate in my constituency. I was able to gain the basic idea of the democratic process of electing a leader and also the various challenges associated with it. This experience was very different from anything I’ve experienced before and an exciting one as well.
There were a few things that surprised me during this experience. Despite a lot of criticism, during the course of campaigning about the inability of any politician to get their job done, I was very happy to learn that Nepalese were very aware of their voting rights and the need to choose the right candidate. Most of them had knowledge on the purpose of this election, which is to devise a constitution that is beneficial for all Nepalese. Even before the primary election results were out, voters were discussing about not voting for the UCPN (Maoist), the largest party in the previous CA assembly by a fair margin, and giving other major parties a chance. In addition, voters participated in massive numbers despite a number of threats to disrupt the election; a 70 percent voter turnout ratio nationwide is a good indication of the awareness amongst voters.
I was campaigning for a young, educated candidate whom voters did not know well. So a particular challenge was to first get the candidate’s name and his sign well-known with voters. We had to spend a lot of time with people familiarizing them about our candidate and trying to persuade people to vote for him. During this course, a significant number of people engaged in discussions and were optimistic about a young and well educated candidate. I also realized that although there were a lot of serious discussions in the streets about the right candidate, there were no town hall meetings where candidates and voters gathered and exchanged their views. I feel that the Nepalese media should have organized such activities and gave voters a better opportunity to compare candidates.
The election itself went well. One representative for each candidate was allowed to monitor the booths for mismanagement and fraud. There were no advertisements as mandated by the election commission, and candidate representatives were enjoying chatting with each other. I made friends while monitoring, and we even cracked jokes with one another. Overall, I think the election was successful, and Nepalese are beginning to understand the power of their voting rights and are utilizing it sensibly. I am confident that if this bunch of elected candidates does not succeed in drafting the much needed constitution, then the people will surely penalize them when the next election comes around.