The first Local Elections in Nepal (Phase 1) for 20 years has been deemed to be a success, and have gone better than expected. Voter turnout was a healthy 71% nationally despite voters having to travel many hours to their home village to cast their vote and with no opportunity for advance voting.
I have heard anecdotally how some young voters were turned away at the polling station, for not having appropriate identification but I am not hearing this to be a widespread issue.
There was some election-related violence at the Phase 1 May 14 elections which was subsequently contained. The CPN-UML Party has called for an inquiry, in the hope to avoid further violence in what is considered to be a more contentious Phase 2 elections on June 14.
Although there is a need for improvement, it is great to see democracy at work in Nepal. Exciting times for this young democracy.
Despite the high turnout, it was soon clear with the high number of spoiled votes, that voter education needs to be stepped up significantly. In particular, education on how to interpret the ballot paper was seen as key.
Voter Education is underway as we speak before Phase 2 Local Elections, scheduled for June 14, 2017, which are assumed will take place.
I say ‘assumed’ because the Madhesi community threatened to boycott the Local Elections unless the Constitution was rewritten to afford great political power to the Madhesi. This is what prompted the Local Elections to be split into two phases in the first place, allowing the Government time to force a bill through the Assembly, amending the Constitution to give the Madhesi the changes they wanted.
The fragile ruling coalition Government are currently in negotiation with all parties, seeking a vote to amend the Constitution but thus far, it has failed to do this. I have no idea what the Madhesi will do if the Constitution is not amended before the Phase 2 elections. All will be revealed before June 14 I am sure.
Add to this is the news this week where Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (CPN-UML) will stick to the agreement made in August 2016, and will step down to allow Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba take the Prime Minister role for the next 9 months. One of Mr. Dahal’s goals was to ensure Local Elections took place before he stepped down. Now that Phase 1 is complete, he is leaving (to my mind) implementation of the more difficult Phase 2 elections to Mr Deuba.
In other news this week, there was a surprise turn of events where India, who has backed the Madhesi in their search for equal rights in Nepal over the past few years, has now turned-about-face and is recommending the Madhesi to vote in Phase 2 of the local elections, even if the Constitution is not amended before June 14.
Hmm … never a dull moment in Nepali politics.
But what about the results? Well, for those of you rooting for the female mayoral and deputy mayoral candidates, you clearly did not send enough positive vibes. They each commanded a decent number of votes, but not enough to secure a win. Still, they are young, Nepal’s democracy is young and I for one see it as a hopeful future for Nepal that young, driven Nepali women are keen to take part in politics – it’s so badly needed!
Results show the Communist Party (CPN-UML) securing a majority of Mayoral positions in three of Nepal’s largest cities: Kathmandu, Bharatpur and Pokhara. The Nepali Congress, the only organized party to press for democratization in Nepal, is a close second and won the Mayoral seat in Lalitpur as expected.
Although these are local elections (and not federal), and therefore should not be impacted by the results in other municipalities, I must admit to wondering if breaking out the local elections into two Phases, and announcing the results from Phase 1 before the Phase 2 polls even open, will in some way influence voting in Phase 2. It remains to be seen I guess.
It interested me to hear both the US and UK suggest that the Government of Nepal allow international observers be involved in the Phase 2 elections, but there has been no response from the Government as yet.
In saying all this, I was heartened to hear a 3-day orientation for the newly elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor is due to take place early June. Their training will include the topics of development planning, the process of budget formulation and endorsement, good governance and ethics, and will be delivered by 60 experts including retired secretaries, practitioners of education, health, governance, and information and communication technology. Later in June, a similar 5-day orientation will be held for the elected representatives.
This is really good to see, as you have to remember the last local election was in 1997 with the terms for those elected, expiring in 2002. Since then, bureaucrats have been the decision-makers where more often than not, corruption was rife in many districts. Elected representatives have to re-learn what it is to represent their electorate and work for the people who put their trust in them. A flegling democracy at work. I wish them well.
The Nepali Government have, smartly postponed the National Grade 11 exams by one week – the exam date coincided with the Phase 2 local elections on June 14, 2017. Removing all distractions is probably a good thing.
I’ll keep you posted of anything of interest in the run up to June 14. I’ll actually be in Nepal for the results while stopping off to visit friends there before I return home to Canada at the end of June.
Should be interesting!!