The alliance among the ruling coalition partners is likely to evaporate by the time of the federal elections

Candidates wishing to contest the local level elections slated for May 13 filed their nomination papers on Sunday and Monday in a peaceful manner, despite disgruntlement among the ruling coalition partners and bad blood between them and the opposition party, the UML. The Election Commission (EC) had set aside two days for filing nominations because of the huge task of data entry and verification of details. During the last election in 2017, as many as 150,000 candidates, including independents, had filed their nomination papers across the country.

This time, there are slightly over 100,000 candidates, still a huge number. To avoid any untoward incident, the EC had asked the local authorities to make sure that candidates from only one political party arrived at the election office to file the nomination papers at a given time. With the filing of nomination papers by the candidates for the civic polls, election fever has gripped the nation, with the aspirants for various posts starting their poll campaign across the nation.

The polls are being held for various posts in 753 local levels – metropolitan cities, sub-metropolitan cities, municipalities and rural municipalities.

The local level poll was supposed to have been a contest between two alliances - the five-party ruling coalition of the Nepali Congress, CPN Maoist Centre (CPN-MC), CPN-Unified Socialist (CPN-US), Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) and Jana Morcha - and the alliance of the UML and Kamal Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal. However, the sharing of seats as desired by the ruling coalition partners at the centre seems to have been adhered to only in 12 of the 77 districts. If this is any guide, then the alliance among the coalition partners in the government will largely evaporate by the time of the provincial and federal elections to be held later in the year. The same could be said of the UML- RPP association. Another feature of the local polls this time is that a sole candidate acceptable to the electorate has filed nomination for 40 posts in some rural municipalities of the mountainous districts with a thin population. This has done away with the expensive election campaigning and also disputes between the parties in a small locality. It is also encouraging to note that the Communist Party of Nepal led by Netra Bikram Chand has filed candidates as independents in some of its strongholds, such as Rolpa, Kapilbastu, Kalikot and Gulmi. So has CK Raut's Janamat Party in the Tarai districts. The only party that has abstained from participating in the local elections is the Communist Party of Nepal (Revolutionary Maoist), a breakaway faction of the Maoist party, led by Mohan Vaidya 'Kiran'.

Since the filing of the nomination papers for the local level elections was peaceful, one can only hope that the campaigning period and the election day will be just as peaceful. The EC has asked the candidates and the parties not to violate the poll code of conduct, failing which it has vowed to take strong action. Among others, it remains to be seen how the EC intends to enforce the code on the poll expenditure cap, which though introduced with good intention, is unrealistic.

Climbing season

The ongoing deadly war in Ukraine has not deterred mountaineering enthusiasts from Europe and America from coming to Nepal. They account for the largest number of climbers who have taken permits for climbing Nepal's various peaks, including Mt Everest and Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world. As per the Department of Tourism (DoT), the highest number of climbers are from the United States, totalling 132, followed by the UK. Earlier, only a few climbers were expected during this spring season due to the war.

As of this week, the DoT has issued 876 climbing permits, which is 153 more permits compared to the climbing permits issued last spring. The highest number of permits, totalling 302, have been issued for Mt Everest. The government has so far collected Rs 448.09 million in royalty from issuing the climbing permits for 25 mountains, with Rs 378.06 million as royalty from Everest alone. Although the number of climbers has jumped this season, the income from the climbing permits has gone down by Rs 82.58 million. Despite all odds, mountaineering has returned to normalcy to the pre-COVID level, offering job opportunities for tens of thousands of people engaged in tourism.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 27, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.