News / Asia

Nepal Goes to Polls to End Political Deadlock

A Nepal election commission officer carrying ballot boxes heads to a polling booth in Katmandu, Nov. 17, 2013.
A Nepal election commission officer carrying ballot boxes heads to a polling booth in Katmandu, Nov. 17, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
Nepal holds elections Tuesday, hoping to put an end to a five-year political deadlock that has brought the Himalayan country to a standstill. A disillusioned people hopes the polls will put the impoverished nation on a path to stability and development, but there are fears the political drift will persist.

Twenty-eight-year-old Sunil Bhattarai has been working as a domestic in India because he could not find a job in Nepal. He had hoped to return to his country after 2008, when political parties promised a new beginning following the overthrow of the monarchy and the end of a civil war. However, in the last five years, the bickering parties were not able to put together a new democratic constitution for the country or move ahead with a development agenda.
  
Bhattarai is deeply disappointed. He said all political parties have dashed his hopes. He said poor people like him have seen no jobs and no improvement in their lives. 

Tuesday’s vote offers a second chance to end the country’s debilitating political vacuum by forming a stable body to frame a constitution. Nepal is presently under a caretaker government. 
 
A director with the Center for South Asia Studies in Kathmandu, Nishchal Pandey, called it a crucial vote.

“We have already had five prime ministers in six years. People are frustrated with 14 hours of power outage and poor law and order. It is imperative that our constitution is drafted and delivered on time. Political stability is the most important factor for this country. Our economy is in shambles,” said Pandey.

But Nepal’s fractured electorate, which resulted in a hung assembly in 2008, poses an even bigger challenge this time. That has raised fears that stability may once again elude the country.

There are nearly 100 parties competing for the 240 directly contested seats in the assembly.  Many of these are small, new parties that have sprung up in the last five years to represent a range of ethnic groups. Two mainstream parties, including the Maoists, who emerged as the largest group in 2008, have split.

The Maoists said they hoped to win these elections with a convincing margin. But that is unlikely -- their appeal as the party that represents the poor has waned amid accusations that they have succumbed to the trappings of power. 

Political columnists like Yuvraj Ghimire in Kathmandu worred that the situation may be even worse this time.

“During the tenure of first constituent assembly, they were busy scrambling for power than preparing the constitution last time. They have not given any proof that they are going to behave differently from last time. The bigger problem could be the house could be much more fragmented than last time,” said Ghimire. 

There are also concerns about how many of the roughly 12 million registered voters will turn out to vote on Tuesday despite tight security. The elections are being held under the shadow of strikes, violence, and a poll boycott by a clutch of opposition parties led by a breakaway Maoist group. In recent days vehicles have been torched and businesses shut by opposition activists. That has raised fears that voters may be intimidated.

“I see around my house virtually empty streets. There are no vehicles, there is absolutely nobody because of this strike call. But on Tuesday we would hope people will go to polling booths despite all this bomb threats and despite pressure not to go and vote,” Nishchal Pandey described the scene.

Some young Nepalese are hoping to change the system.  Fed up with the country’s political culture, 36-year-old Ujwal Thapa has jumped into the electoral fray and is contesting as an independent candidate from Kathmandu. He hopes to transform the system from within, saying Nepalese people want leaders, not “talkers.”

“People are just tired of political forces that actually over promise and under deliver. I believe this time people are looking at candidates backgrounds very carefully and voting along those lines,” said Thapa.

Caught between hope and despair, Nepal is looking ahead to the vote, hoping for the best, but bracing for more political drift.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: aayush niroula from: hong kong
November 18, 2013 6:15 AM
why has an indian writer, writing from india, been given to write about the elections in nepal, amalgating a complex dynamics of issues and people into "a disillusioned people hopes the polls will put the impoverished nation on a path to stability". so reductive and inauthentic.
In Response

by: Gyan from: Kathmandu
November 19, 2013 7:34 AM
Aru Pande is also reporting from Kathmandu no worry man :)

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs