The independent candidates have certainly sprung a surprise by registering a win in 10municipalities. This has assumed a global phenomenon in view of their emergence in the recently-concluded Australian election also and in the 2021 municipal election in South Africa. This is attributed to the loss of people's faith in the political parties
The much-awaited local election has now reached the fag end amidst suspicion of its unlikelihood in due time in some political avenues. It has nonetheless left a few scars behind. The first one is the unnecessary disturbance marked by violence, which could have been prevented had there been a proactive security arrangement. Our security mechanism has not yet abandoned its classical approach of coming to action after an incident flowers fully instead of nipping it in the bud.
What is worse is that this security fiasco continued unabated, resulting in the death of a person in the re-polling. The Election Commission has accepted this lapse even though it has cited the single-day nationwide voting partly for this undesired state of affair.
The second one is obviously the slow counting, leading to the colossal loss of time on the part of the media and the public at large. Whilst several countries, including neighbouring India, have adopted electronic voting, it is difficult to understand why we have still been harbouring this electronic phobia. It would have led to some invalid votes, but these have dominated even the present traditional paper voting.
The third one is certainly the relatively lesser participation in the voting. There have been allegations that the dissatisfaction of the people with the functioning of democracy in the way that the political leaders are making multiple blunders, for example, in doling out party nominations to their sons, daughters and spouses in a frantic streak of nepotism has led to the present low turn-out in the elections. This is also known as dissatisfied voters' hypothesis.
The slump in voters' appearance suggests that the people are fed up with the dismal performance of the party leaders in the post-republican era in Nepal. The defeat of the Deuba-supported group in his home ward, and the lagging behind of Keshav Sthapit and Srijana Singh by a substantial margin in the mayoral race in Kathmandu also indicate this tendency. The voters, however, still seem to have their trust in the parties as exemplified by the casting of votes enough to catapult them to the first three positions.
The pre-election coalition that has been currently adopted in Nepal, in stark contrast of a post-election coalition that is resorted to after the parties fail to secure a majority leading to a hung parliament, is seen as an attempt to secure more voter participation in the election. A research carried out in 223 legislative elections in 19 advanced democracies by Erik R Tilman of DePaul University, Chicago has shown that a pre-election coalition increases voters' involvement by at least 1.5 per cent.
Whether the pre-election coalition has increased the voters' engagement or not has yet to be researched in Nepal's case. But the general perception that the voters' outcome is far from desired cannot be denied as it has also been corroborated by the Election Commission.
If so, it may have been affected by several factors apart from discontent with the party leaders. One of them is certainly the absent population of almost 10 per cent of voting age who are abroad for employment.
The other is the nearly 8 per cent senior citizens who find it difficult to come to the polling stations usually dominated by the difficult Nepali terrain, even though there was an exception of a 113-year-old lady from Tanahu district.
Moreover, the voting list needs to be revised regularly to strike off the names of deceased persons. It was, however, not the case in view of the continuation in the list of the name of the departed spouse of no lesser than the former Election Commissioner.
The independent candidates have certainly sprung a surprise by registering a win in 13 municipalities, including Harkaraj Sangpang Rai in Dharan and taking the lead in Kathmandu Metropolitan City by Balendra Shaha right from the word. This has assumed a global phenomenon in view of their emergence in the recently-concluded Australian election also. In South Africa also they had made a mark in the 2021 municipal election.
This has been attributed to the loss of people's faith in the political parties in these countries and also in Nepal.
The Nepali Congress has established itself as the number one party in the election. Its firm stand on many issues like the Millennium Challenge Corporation as against the flip flop tendency of the others was partly responsible for it. The Maoist Centre has improved when compared to its earlier standing. The Unified Socialist, however, could not benefit as much from the coalition, perhaps because of its infancy. Rastriya Prajatantra and the Janamat Party have proved to be a damp squib in view of the very little visibility in the aftermath of the election results despite expectation to the contrary.
The election results have silenced the loud-mouthed UML in view of its persistent claim of sweeping the election due to its belief in the people's edict contrary to the coalition's faith in the court verdict. No wonder that it has alleged the government of indulging in an election scam, which is difficult to believe in view of Deuba's defeat in his home ward. Some of the UML leaders' claim for all out victory after the voting and now the allegation of election fraud have certainly surprised many.
The parties that have been elected should now focus on the delivery of services to the people by bracing firstly for the floods and landslides, which have already started to knock at the door. These events are likely to come harder than before because of the prediction of more than average rainfall this year.
The construction of ponds and canals to divert the rain water from landslide-vulnerable areas followed by the filling of cracks can provide wonderful results at a low cost.
This is going to be the first litmus test for the new leaders.
They cannot afford to lose because that will mean lagging far behind in the first round of the multiple-rounded local level governance.
A version of this article appears in the print on May 27, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.