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The Second-phase Local Election

Issue July 2017

The Second-phase Local Election

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


The second-phase election has been done. Its results simply followed the pattern of the first phase election. Now, only the province number two is waiting for the local election. Once, it is done, the local governments and local legislatures will be firmly on the ground as the corner stones of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. They will last for five years until the next election. Allowances to senor citizens, disabled, and single women played a significant role in the local election. Some elected local officials have hurriedly went to provided senior citizens with allowances at their homes, others have proposed to buy expensive iphones, and luxury cars. In the past particularly during the panchayat period, the local elected officials had earned the reputation of selling even the public hangout buildings called pati-paauwa. We hope this history would not repeat.


Election at the province number two is postponed for September 18, 2017 for opening the door to the dissident Madheshi political parties to participate in it. They have been for participating in the election only after the amendment to the constitution whereas the opposition has been not for amendment at any cost. The coalition partners such as NC and Maoist-Center have been working hard to create an environment in which the Madheshi parties and the opposition CPN-UML would be accommodated.


Local governments and legislatures are the pillars of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, as they would remain in place for five years. Nobody could dissolve them unlike the provincial and federal parliaments and the governments. Local governments and legislatures will remain in place even when provincial and federal parliaments are dissolved for some reasons.


The Election Commission has successfully held the second-phase local election in the provinces 1, 5 and 7 with the security the government has provided on June 28, 2017. The election has been smooth and peaceful except for a few unfortunate cases of death and going off bombs. In one case, a security has grabbed a bomb with a burning wire and threw away saving the lives of voters.


Home Minister Janardan Sharma immediately made a telephone call to the police that had grabbed the bomb and threw away, and appreciated his courage, and assured him of a reward for his outstanding bravery, and for performing the duty courageously even risking his life.


Voters traveled for hours to the polling stations for voting. Then, they lined up under the sizzling sun or heavy rains for another hour or so. Sons or porters piggybacked the senior voters or disabled that were not fit to walk in the remote areas where vehicular transport was not available.


The Election Commission (EC) has managed the counting of votes remarkably smoothly and done almost in a week without any controversy and tearing off ballots. Learning the lesson of tearing off the ballots at one of the wards of the Bharatpur Municipality in Chitwan, this time, the EC kept the representatives of the candidates off-limits to the ballots. They could see the ballots from a little distant but they did not have an access to them.


Speaking to the anchor of the morning program called “antar-sambad” of the Radio Nepal, the Chief Election Commissioner Dr Ayodhi Prasad Yadav said that the EC could do the counting of ballots in no time if the law were to permit to count the ballots at the polling booths immediately after the voting was completed, as each both would have only a few thousand ballots; so, it would be a matter of hours to complete the counting. So, the law has been the main barrier to the counting of ballots.


At one municipality, there was a tie for the position of mayor, as both candidates secured the equal numbers of votes. The EC decided a winner flipping a coin. Whether it is a correct decision or not remains to be seen. Some people think that holding another election again is the best decision on such a case, as the candidates will have a chance to go back to the voters and persuade them to vote for him or her rather than putting them on their luck or a chance. However, the EC has no clear law on dealing with such a case.


Now, how the political parties did in the second-phase election. CPN-UML has won the largest number of seats while NC the second largest and the Maoist-Center the third. As reported in the “gorkhapatra” of July 6, 2017, CPN-UML won at 138 local units, NC at 116, and Maoist-Center at 36.


How CPN-UML managed to win the local elections at so many local units? CPN-UML used the allowance to the senior citizens Chairman of CPN-UML KP Oli had doubled from NPR 1,000 to NPR 2,000 per month when he was a prime minister in 2016 as a campaign tool. CPN-UML candidates repeatedly told the voters at the election rallies that they would further increase the allowance provided they would win the elections. They also told that the NC did not only increase the allowance and even would take away the allowance. CPN-UML had first introduced the senior citizen allowance in 1995. Then, NC introduced the allowances to disabled and single women.


Obviously, voters believed the CPN-UML candidates that they would add something to the prevailing senior citizen allowance. For example, the man winning the mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City immediately announced that he decided to increase the senior citizen allowance by 10 percent. The news in “gorkhapatra” of July 7, 2017 stated that the newly elected mayor of the Siddhicharan Municipality in the Okhaldhunga district has declared that he would provide the senior citizens, and other social security allowances recipients with the allowances at their homes.


Senior citizens and would-be-soon senior citizens overwhelmingly voted for the CPN-UML. Many senior citizens traditionally voted for the NC went to vote for CPN-UML. They did not care for other things. Even in Kathmandu and other metropolitan cities, voters went for the CPN-UML candidates despite the fact that the coalition of NC and Maoist-Center had managed to supply the power uninterruptedly whereas the Oli government had illegally diverted the power from the common folks to a few large industries from which CPN-UML must have received a large payoff.


President of NC Sher Bahadur Deuba, and NC leader Gagan Thapa belatedly told at the election rallies that the NC would increase the allowance to the senior citizens. It was too late for the party to convince the voters of NC leaders keeping their commitment. Deuba had said that his party would increase the allowance to NPR 5,000 per month. Obviously that did not work, as it did not change the election results in favor of NC.


Apparently, voters did not believe in Deuba that he would keep his election promise. NC leaders particularly Dr Ram Sharan Mahat had been deadly against paying any allowance to senior citizens or a single women or disabled people and so on. Senior citizens had fought for increasing the allowance for almost three years but the then Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat did not listen to them.


Dr Mahat as an economist might be right that paying allowances to senior citizens, single women, and disabled folks would be a burden on the national treasury but he forgot that the nation needed to provided the senior citizens, disabled folks and single women with the social security, as they had contributed to bring the country to the current status politically economically and socially. So, the nation needed to be grateful to the senior citizens and other citizens, too.


Paying social security to the senior citizens would have a tremendous impact on the population growth, Dr Mahat would have understand it, had he learn a bit of sociology. Nepalese parents go for having a son even after having a number of girl children for two reasons such as first for the old-age security and the second for having the funeral fire from the son, as the Nepalese Hindus believed that the entry to heaven would be opened up only after a son put a fire on the mouth of the dead parents. Most of the parents particularly mothers would not opt to have so many children in anticipation to have a son if they were sure to have something to live on in the old-age. Thus, the population growth would be in check.


If Dr Mahat were to think over the possible population control if the State were to pay a sufficient amount of allowance requiring for the livelihood of senior citizens most of the parents even believing in a son is required for the death rituals would limit their babies to a manageable level. However, Dr Mahat as an economics as well as a finance minister failed in grasping the fact, and he became deadly against paying any allowances to anybody in the past, surely adversely affecting the local election results for the NC.


Whether CPN-UML would be able to cash in the senior citizen allowance in the provincial and federal elections remains to be seen. The election results after the provincial and federal elections might be just the opposite of the local elections, as the allowances to the senior citizens would not play a role in those elections. In addition, by the time of the provincial and federal elections, the masks of the elected local officials would be removed and their real faces would be revealed.


The advantage CPN-UML managed to take in the local election might be the bubble, as CPN-UML candidates had managed to use various tools to win the elections. They took the advantage of their party staying on in the opposition. They had managed to keep the dissidents in the party in check. They had fully utilized the KP Oli’s stand against India even though it had been the most unfortunate for the Nepalese in general. If the provincial and federal elections were held before the bubble burst then CPN-UML might lead even in the provinces and federal parliament.


The immediate actions of some elected local officials have been against the aspirations of the voters for the good governance. For example, the mayor of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City had decided to buy iphones for the elected officials but annulled the decision after the public outcry in the social and regular media. Other elected officials also had decided to buy luxury cars for them but the public outcry stopped them.


The mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City elected on the platform of the CPN-UML could have done a little thing such as posting the street names, and providing the house numbers that none of the mayors had been able to complete this task so far. He even has not think of keeping his commitment to fill up the potholes on the roads, and make Kathmandu free of dust and mud. Practically, he had done nothing even after 10 days of the elections except for trying to buy iphones for the elected officials of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.


The second most important election issue CPN-UML candidates and leaders had propagated was that KP Oli had been a strong prime minister that could withstand the heavy pressure of the Indian establishment, and made Nepalese proud citizens whereas Prachanda as a prime minister gave in to India, and NC leader Deuba has been pro India. So, most of the Nepalese that could not think deeply about confronting India was not in the interest of Nepal and not even of India, too did vote for CPN-UML candidates.


As a Prime Minister KP Oli did nothing to lift the sanction India unofficially imposed on Nepal causing tremendous sufferings to the common folks for more than five months. He sat in his cozy prime ministerial chair and played with fingers because he had everything for the lavish life on earth while millions of Nepalese suffered from the shortage of basic supplies including the fuel for cooking and for transport. He did not even try to open up the northern border entry points for getting the basic supplies even at high cost rather he encouraged the smuggling of fuel from southern border points letting the smugglers make money at the cost of the consumers. Certainly, voters did not understand all these things, and patted Oli for standing out against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and voted for CPN-UML candidates.


Why NC has won the election at the local units less than CPN-UML? The internal squabbles and dissidents in the NC played a major role in the local election in addition to the senior citizen allowance. Party members and even leaders think that NC is a democratic party and they could do whatever they liked in other words to be indiscipline. Democracy and discipline are two different things. Democracy means to honor the rights of everybody not encroach on others rights. Discipline is the code of conduct in the party. The party leadership could not maintain discipline making numerous groups within the party. Each group trying to take the advantage of the NC’s history and reputation has been the regular practice. Some leaders being openly corrupt even managed to disrepute the party.


If the NC leadership were to check the internal dissidents and quarreling, and to work in the interest of the citizens then the NC leaders could remain at the helm of government for many years to come. They would not have a problem of winning any number of seats in the provinces and federal parliament. However, the dissident groups and internal squabbles have been the traits of the party in the past and continue even today. That would certainly harm the party.


Now, why the Maoist-Center has to accept the third position at the local units despite the party being the people-oriented?  Clearly, the party has been fragmented into a number of pieces. The Maoist-Center has been the largest fragment. Prachanda has been the marvelous leader even in such circumstances managed to win so many local units.


Some influential leaders such as Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’, Dev Gurung, Pampha Bushal, Matrika Yadav that had quit the parent party and then came back to join it failed to reach the people once they had reached at the time of the election to the first Constituent Assembly. Had they gone to their respective constituency and tried to gain the confidence of voters in them then the Maoist-Center would not have a problem of winning a lot more local units than what the party had won.


Probably, these guys must have thought that the Maoist-Center is the party of Prachanda and let him do whatever he could for the party. So, they must have been indifferent to the local election. If it were to be so then the party would have a difficulty in doing better in the provincial and federal elections, too.


Other facts that hindered the Maoist-Center to win more local units had been that the Biplab Maoists, Vaidhya Maoists, and Dr Baburam Bhattarai have been not only cooperating with the Maoist-Center to win more local units but also trying to stop the candidates of the Maoist-Center from winning the election. Biplab and Vaidhya erroneously believed that if they were to make the Maoist-Center a failure then it would be their victory. They did not feel the dynamic of the politics. They even did not realize the fact that Nepal has been the republic and Nepalese have most of the rights they needed to self-development. Probably, Biplab and Vaidhya did not see that Nepalese did not need to take up the arms again but the people could use the ballots for any change in the future.


Dr Baburam Bhattarai quit the Maoist party overestimating his ability and capacity and even his intellectual status. His influences on the people in his district if kept intact would have been the great assets for the Maoist-Center. Dr Bhattarai has lost the political direction, and currently, he does not know how to navigate to reach the undefined goal. He could say his new party called “Naya Shakti” would be in power in 2018 but how without having any influence on the voters as shown by the local election.


Small political parties have been nuisance in the Nepalese politics. They have been the main players in making and breaking the government. They have been the main players in changing the government frequently. KP Oli as a prime minister appointed six chiefs of minor political parties as his deputies in 2015. So, voters must have rejected them starting from the local elections, and voters have wiped out almost all the minor political parties in the local elections.


Presence of minor political parties will be non-existence after the provincial and federal elections, as any political party claiming to be a national party would need to cross the threshold of winning three percent of the total votes cast, and winning at least one seat in the parliament from the direction election. If the local election is any guide, minor political parties will have almost no chance to survive the provincial and federal elections, as voters have overwhelmingly rejected the minor and even small political parties. About 95 percent of the votes went to the three major political parties: NC, CPN-UML, and Maoist-Center.


Voters wanted only three major political parties to run the country. Probably, combination of two political parties would run the country if none of the three major political parties such as NC, CPN-UML, and Maoist-Center would garner the majority required for forming a federal government, and same is applicable to the provincial governments.


Now, Rastriya Janata Party (RJP): an incarnation of six Madheshi political parties has applied for registering at the Election Commission, according to the news in “gorkhapatra” of July 8, 2017, 2017. However, other online news has stated the RJP leaders have a problem of whether to state the names of two Madheshi leaders in the statute of the RJP or not. Some leaders wanted it others did not. Anyway RJP is on the way to the registration at the EC.


Finally, RJP is going to participate in the local election to be held in the province number two on September 18, 2017 even though some leaders have been saying that they would not take part in the election before the amendment to the Constitution.


NC, Maoist-Center and RJP have agreed to advance the constitution amendment bill, the RSS news in “The Rising Nepal” of July 8, 2017 stated. It surely would pave the way for the RJP to take part in the third-phase local election to be held in the province number two on September 18, 2017, and again in the federal and provincial elections to be held in the coming months.


CPN-UML has been for letting the amendment to the constitution happen with some corrections. It has been a good indication that CPN-UML is wiling to negotiate. Previously, CPN-UML’s stand has been no amendment to the constitution at any cost, and RJP’s has been no participation in the election without amendment. Thus, both the CPN-UML and RJP had been the main obstacles to the election. However, the coalition of NC and Maoist-Center has appropriately crossed those hurdles and held the election in the six provinces out of seven provinces. That is a great achievement of institutionalizing the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.


The “gorkhapatra” of July 8, 2017 has an interesting piece of news that has stated the cost per voter has been NPR 488. The EC has spent NPR 5.54 billion on the local elections, and returned the remaining NPR 3 billion to the government, according to the news. Candidates must have spent a lot of money on election campaign fueling the local economy. The election activities had boost the demand for the poultry products causing the high prices of those products during and even after the elections.


July 8, 2017

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