For the last month or two, Kathmandu has been strewn from one end to the other with election posters from the ranks of its 100+ parties running for election on November 19. Usually, I steer away from political topics on this blog, but its hard to ignore politics these days. The posters are particularly poignant for me. As someone who can remember the Eastern bloc, the days of Soviet Communism, and Mao as leader in China, its a very weird “blast from the past” to see the hammer and sickle plastered around the city. Yet in Kathmandu, the Maoists are a force to be reckoned with here. A 33-party alliance of Maoists have tried to hold the city to ransom for the last 10 days with a transportation strike to disrupt the elections, and it has been a nuisance at best for those of trying to get things done. The strike was only partially effective for the first day, after which it was downgraded to a night-time transportation strike so no-one could safely drive around at night. This morning, the day before the election, ironically the streets were quieter than during the strike because most citizens have left to return to their home place to vote.
Effective or not, the strikes have created some real violence in places, and it is probably not over yet. Tomorrow is the actual election day and, again, the streets will eerily be bus, car, bicycle and motorbike free. Except this time it is a government-mandated transportation ban designed to avoid illegal busing of voters in a fledgling democracy. Tomorrow we are walking to work.
The upside is the city is silent, the skies are clearing and the Kathmandu’s beautiful mountains are visible again in the distance.
Tomorrow is going to be a big day for Nepal.