Poll analysts: Drawing a blank

Everybody is chipping in with h/her own version about the unexpected CA polls results. Different theories/ models have been proposed, but none applicable to Nepal. The country’s unique geo-politics, its varied geography and diversity do not lend to readymade theories.

One of the possible explanations put forward has been the Stockholm syndrome. Roughly put, it is the feeling of sympathy and attachment that people acquire for their captors in hostage-like situations. The Maoists, “the hostage takers” of their hapless victims during insurgency, might somehow have succeed in imbuing in their “captives” sympathy and understanding for their greater cause.

Likewise, in one set of experiments at Stanford University, the experimenters were able to show how common, peace-loving people could be made violent when placed in authoritative positions. Thus in a violent setting, even peaceful people are liable to commit violence and develop tolerance for cruelty. Nepali people, the thinking goes, having adapted themselves to living in violent climes, accepted violence as a legitimate means to voice demands — also explaining the Maoists’ spectacular outing on April 10.

Similarly, noted evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond believes that all humans are inherently violent. The civilised society teaches them to suppress their violence, which does more harm than good. Hence, the people in primitive societies, though more violent, might be happier as tribal laws permit brutal acts forbidden by common laws in civilised societies. There is also the possibility that the Maoists by resorting to brazen violence stoked that inborn desire in their victims. People could identify Maoist violence as an extension of their own penchant for cruelty.

The political commentators and intellectuals, on their part, have put forth their own reasons about their inability to predict the Maoist win. Among the popular reasons proposed: their inability to judge the level of resentment against mainstream political parties, their failure to look through the parties’ failure to reach out to voters for various reasons, their underestimation of the effectiveness of violence in garnering votes; vote rigging, failure to gauge the level of people’s need for ‘change’, the unpredictable nature of the first-time voters... The list goes on and on.

I put my money on the last one, but not for the widely held reason: Not only was the voting nature of first-time voters unpredictable, but that of the whole electorate.

What makes us believe we can predict events as unique as Jana Andolan II or the CA polls? Which other country matches the geo-political complexities of Nepal along with its ethnic and religious diversity? How can the models tested in Western settings be applied wholesale in the country?

Nepal had been transformed into a political laboratory since the signing of the 12-point agreement between the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance in 2005. The elements in experiments were new and new products were constantly being churned out. The experiments had acquired such a level of complexity by election time that it was improbable that any human being with limited resources could have predicted any one outcome. In other words, both the pre- and post-poll analysis have drawn a blank.