19-25 July 2013 #665

Back to the people

The good news from public opinion polls is that Nepalis haven’t given up on the parties, but they will not vote for crooks and liars from the past

We have often written in this space about the widespread public sense of disappointment with leaders who have repeatedly squandered opportunities to come up with political compromises necessary to extricate the country from the morass they got us into. And now, a party-less government that itself is in life support, seems to be having private doubts about November polls.

But contrary to what we wrote last week, there seems to be a stirring of interest among Nepalis about elections. It must be a desperate attempt to cling to straws that the proportion of people not interested in voting has gone down in the weekly Himalamedia Bazar Poll. The tracking poll carried out every week in 12 urban centres around the country and supported by The Asia Foundation, shows that only 22 per cent of the 363 respondents last week were in the Don’t Know/Won’t Say category, compared to more than 26 per cent a month ago.

Asked who among the current crop of top leaders they trust the most, Sushil Koirala of the NC has increased his lead to 13.5 per cent, compared to 12.7. UCPN (M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has also climbed one point to 8.8 per cent to put him on second spot. Baburam Bhattarai, on the other hand, has dropped from 9.1 per cent to 8.3 per cent in the past month. The pro-monarchist Kamal Thapa of the RPP-N has nearly doubled his rating from 3.6 percent to 6.6 per cent. But the other leaders, including most Madhesi ones, are all below 2.5 per cent.

Interestingly, the acceptance of federalism among urban respondents appears to be going up steadily in the past four months from 46 per cent to 56 per cent. Those in favour of ethnicity-based federalism is still low (17 per cent) with more than half supporting North-South federal units.

The responses seem to corroborate the findings of The Citizen Survey 2013 carried out nationwide in April-May by International IDEA as well as the results of the Himalmedia Nationwide Public Opinion Poll 2013.

The IDEA Citizen Survey showed that 69 per cent of Nepalis said they hadn’t yet made up their minds about who they would vote for. Half the respondents were confused or did not understand concepts like federalism, but among those who did, support for it has risen to 73 per cent with a majority wanting as few provinces as possible.

Interestingly, nearly 7 out of every 10 respondents said they will vote along party lines and not along ethnic or communal ones, and more (45 per cent) said they would vote for women candidates.

Nepal’s political leaders should look at these poll findings and take lessons. The people haven’t yet given up on them, although disillusionment is high. They do not want slogans and extraneous issues to cloud the elections. They think federalism is ok, but not by demarcating provinces along ethnic lines.

The political parties would do well to re-invent themselves, have more women candidates, and not field the crooks and liars of the past. The people don’t want any more promises, they don’t want speeches. They will vote for the party that they think is best placed to provide them jobs, education, healthcare, and development.