In four days from now, Nepal will create political history. The crucial constituent assembly election is scheduled for April 10. After all the initial hiccups, the strong disagreements over the nature of the election, the deferring of earlier poll dates, the sporadic unrest and violence, the great day is finally round the corner.
The new constituent assembly will in turn draft a new constitution for the country, which will profoundly affect its future, turning it from a Hindu monarchy into a secular republic.
Initially, the election was expected to be held in June 2007, but the election commission could not cope, so it was postponed until November. It could not be held in November because the Maoists refused to participate unless a series of their demands was conceded, including proclaiming Nepal a republic and adopting a proportional system of elections (as prevails in many European countries).
A compromise was finally achieved by which two kinds of polling systems will be operational. In the 601 member constituent assembly, 240 MPs will be elected by the first-past-the-post system (as prevails in India or Britain) while 335 members will be chosen by the proportional system. The remaining 26 will be appointed by the cabinet after the election.
Each voter will get two ballots papers, one to vote in first-past-the-post system, and the other for the proportional representation election.
Persuaded by the Maoists almost all the ruling political parties are now agreed that the monarchy should be abolished, and are determined to establish Nepal as a democratic republic.