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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More