Local elections are underway in Nepal today, the first in over 20 years and the first under the new 2015 Constitution. A momentous day for Nepal!!
Not everyone was happy with the new Constitution however. The Madhesi community felt the new Constitution left them politically side-lined and threatened to boycott the elections unless changes were made to the Constitution. The Government has promised to make these changes in the next month or so, and this has forced the elections to be split into two phases. Unsure how the results of Phase 1 will not influence the outcomes of Phase 2, but there you have it.
Voter turnout is looking good thus far with no disturbances reported. According to the Kathmandu Post, there was on average a 50% turnout across all polling stations as at Noon today. Polls close at 7pm. Kavre, the district where I live when I am in Nepal, has a 70% turnout!
I’m not surprised voter turnout has been strong given over 9 million Nepalis will be voting for the first time in their lives!
Total registered voters total a little over 14 million and there is an even enough split between males and females. Interesting to note there are 143 registered as a third gender.
Postscript: Further comments from Drs Peter Wing and Claire Weeks (SpiNepal) who are in Nepal and ‘on the ground’ as it were with more detailed observations of the election:
Hi Kate – nice note about the elections. We just came out from our Mardi Himal/Ghandruk trek and saw many voters walking, often many hours, to Ghandruk. While there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm to vote, bear in mind that the 1.2 million plus Nepalese living and working abroad and contributing actively to the GDP have no vote. There are many long term ‘Nepalese’ residents who cannot get citizenship to vote and many Nepalese-born people who must own land and prove birth to get citizenship documented and vote. There are no absentee or advance votes in this fledgling democracy – those working away from home in or out of the country cannot vote. As we understand it, one must vote in one’s home-registered place even if it takes 20 hours by bus. Perhaps increasing computerization will remedy this in the future.
It is ironic that we are just picking up the results of the BC election – our advance votes may make a difference!
P and C
Peter also reminded me that there are 858 candidates in total running in Kathmandu. I found a photo of the ballot sheet – its huge!! What’s the betting there will be lots of spoiled votes?!
The biggest issue that the people in Kathmandu are concerned about is the level of pollution in the city. The quality of air and water pollution in the city is very high, in fact Kathmandu is the 7th most polluted city in the world. I kid you not.
As a result of these elections, it’s expected local decision-making will improve the conditions of villages and towns, where decisions will no longer be dictated by Kathmandu.
Essentially, each town and village council will be self-governing with powers of law-making, taxation and licensing. It’s supposed to facilitate quicker decision-making where things can happen quicker. To my mind, this will all depend on what kind of human being gets voted in!
Results for Phase 1 should be available by next weekend … stay tuned for the results.