Historic election underway in Nepal

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!

Photo credit Kathmandu Post

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.

Photo credit Nepali Times

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?!

Photo credit: Kathmandu Post

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.

Photo credit Nepali Times

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.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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7 Responses to Historic election underway in Nepal

  1. pcwing says:

    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

    • Kate Coffey says:

      Great points Peter, I knew all this and have previous posts about some of these issues. If you do not mind, I will ‘promote’ this comment to the main post for all to read. Enjoy your last week in Nepal.

  2. This is monumental. But shocking about the poor quality of air in the capital. I suppose a lot of that stems from smoke from cooking fires burning in homes? Would that be right? What would be another cause?

    • Kate Coffey says:

      Thoughtful question Forestwoodfolk!

      I would say cooking fires are not the culprit at all. Most if not all use a two-ring gas stove-top to cook and an electric rice cooker for rice. Aside from rural communities, the only time I ever saw people cook outdoors with wood was when the border between India and Nepal was closed during Fall 2015 and Spring 2016. There was no fuel for cars or cooking gas (or medical supplies or spices, salt, sugar and other dry foods) available at all during that time. Due to less vehicles on the road as a result of no fuel for cars, air pollution reduced significantly!

      Instead, I would say the number one reason would probably be traffic exhaust due to old un-roadworthy vehicles, a close second would be the many brick kilns emitting copious volumes of smoke throughout the Kathmandu Valley and a distant third would be the burning of garbage on the roadside, including plastic bags that really stink!

      • That is awful! I can see from your videos that cars are a huge problem there compared to year ago. The burning of plastic must be so harmful!

      • Kate Coffey says:

        It sure is, as I said in my post, it’s one of the primary reasons why I like to live a couple of hours east of KTM when I am there – quieter, cleaner air, fresh vegetables and slower pace. Easy integration to daily life there –
        yoga, morning walks, sitting & drinking tea. My kind of place. No pizza or foreigner in sight!

      • Thats sounds more my style too!

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