Until the Supreme Court (SC) re-establishes the Lower House for further proceedings, the country will attend early elections on November 12 and 19. In this regard, a question arises, if the country needs elections at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the country and has already laid bare the fragile health system? It is evident that the dissolution of the House took place without going through the government formation processes of Articles 76 (1) 76 (2) 76 (3) and 76 (5), which appear to be unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the constitutional bench of the SC will decide the fate of the House of Representatives; However, if the planned midterm polls were to take place, voters will likely remain skeptical about their participation, as they have already witnessed the horrific phase of the second wave of the pandemic.
The country is struggling to provide beds and manage the oxygen supply to hospitals, with cases of patients requiring critical and intensive care still on the rise. With speculation of a potentially even more dangerous third wave that could totally wreak havoc on the creaky healthcare system, and with elections approaching, the deaths can be immense.
The prime minister, who recommended prematurely dissolving the House after failing to meet the ground test on May 10, told a press conference that the elections were mandatory despite unfavorable conditions and circumstances.
He cited examples of the United States and neighbor to southern India – which led the polls amid the pandemic – in order to cover up his unconstitutional ruling.
In this regard, the comparisons seem erroneous, keeping the situation and the nature of the election that these countries have conducted. Speaking of the 2020 US election, it was the full-term quadrennial presidential election. And the United States struggled to hold the election as many events or rallies were called off.
The presidential debates of the Democratic Party, which were important in establishing the political position of the parties, took place without a hearing. Some political analysts have even claimed that all these restrictions coupled with the effects of the pandemic had unpredictable effects, and even questioned the legitimacy of the election.
The United States, with the best postal services in the world, covered only three-quarters of the postal voting population and faced several issues such as long lines at polling stations on election day.
The Indian example, concerning the elections held in four states and one Union territory at the end of March and April, cannot be exemplary, because the consequences of the damage are already starting to manifest themselves with an increase in the number of cases and outbreaks. infection across the county. India slipped into a devastating crisis after a sudden surge just after the election. With cases increasing by many folds, the question of whether the election was necessary or not is being considered.
Amid the vote count, India was setting records after a record number of coronavirus-related deaths.
The Madras High Court even criticized the Election Commission for failing to stop large rallies and overcrowded election campaigns, flouting coronavirus protocols.
If it were a full-term election, the benefit of the doubt could have been given since article 93 of the Constitution of Nepal stipulates that the sessions of the Federal Parliament must be called by the President without have an interval of more than six months between two consecutive sessions, or a constitutional crisis may arise.
If the midterm polls were to be conducted, Nepal must bet on orthodox voting practices, as the country lacks technological tools for online voting or postal voting, like the United States. And lacking a robust health system, the country can suffer the same fate as India, which was ravaged by the pandemic just after the election.
Nepal’s faltering jab campaign is not reversing the trend in its favor, where less than 3% of the population is fully immunized, and it is not certain that everyone can be reached before the elections.
In addition, the failure of policies and diplomacy prevents Nepal from making vaccines available, as the current situation shows that 1.3 million people aged 65 and over are not sure of the second dose of the vaccine despite payment of the total amount of one million doses to the Serum Institute. from India.
Dependence on India for vaccines cannot be justified as the country itself has shown its dependence on foreign vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson.
The country itself is in trouble as only 3% of the country’s 1.3 billion people have been fully immunized, the lowest rate among the 10 counties with the most cases.
In addition, China’s nondisclosure agreement and higher vaccine prices may add supply barriers.
In addition, these vaccines are restricted to certain age groups, which is not a good sign when Nepal seeks to contain the spread of the virus as elections approach.
In rich countries, they vaccinate one person every second while the majority of poor countries have not yet administered a single dose, and Nepal is no exception.
In such a scenario, how can the people feel fully assured of voting in the midterm polls when the verdict is still at stake in the CS? Voters cannot be convinced just by making comparisons with other countries. Many factors need to be analyzed, such as eminence, relevance and predictability.
The midterm elections can be a double whammy at a time when the country struggles to provide needed health care and new infection records are set every day, and with experts warning of a third wave more deadly.
Nonetheless, if the election were to take place, it would require an unprecedented level of control as it is not difficult to predict that the turnout would be lower, and the consequences would be unmanageable as more than 60 countries plan to postpone their elections. local and national. elections, as stated by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
A version of this article appears in the July 2, 2021 print of The Himalayan Times.