22-28 March 2013 #648

All politics is local

More than 3,500 Nepalis were interviewed nationwide for this year’s Himalmedia Public Opinion Poll
Kunda Dixit

More than 3,500 Nepalis were interviewed nationwide in 38 districts for this year’s Himalmedia Public Opinion Poll in mid-February, and for many of them the disappointment with national politics has trickled down to the district and village level.

DDCs, VDCs, and municipalities have been without election councils now for 11 years and the resulting lack of accountability is affecting the lives of Nepalis everywhere. Six in every ten respondents said local elections should be held ‘immediately’, without waiting for national elections for a Constituent Assembly.

Local units of government are responsible for citizenship, birth and marriage registration and other paperwork, and this is now being handled by civil servants who are often outsiders. When asked where they went to get work done, one-third of the respondents said they went to the VDC or municipality secretary, but a sizeable 26% said they still approached council members elected in the last local elections in 1998. The fact that people still go to their elected officials even though they don’t hold any formal positions anymore is an indication of the residual respect accorded to local officials.

However, successive poll results from the past three years show a gradual erosion of the people’s trust in local political leaders. When asked to compare between national-level leaders of political parties and local ones, nearly 55% said they were ‘the same’. More people (nearly 20%) thought they were worse, and only 17% thought local leaders were ‘better’ than national ones.

More than half the respondents (52%) now say that their trust in political parties has diminished in the past few years and less than 9% felt that their trust had improved.

The Poll had a battery of questions on the public trust of other institutions like the army, police, bureaucracy, media etc. ‘Distrust of the police’ is at 24%, and it is higher in the Tarai. The people are similarly distrustful of the civil service, with a full one-third of Tarai respondents saying so.

As in previous years, those fairing comparatively better include the army, the justice system, and media. Nearly 86% said they trusted the media the most or enough, but the percentage of those who trust the media more than 3-4 years ago has gone down from 62% in 2011 to 41% in 2013.

As a control question, respondents were asked if there had been an improvement in electricity supply in the past 3-4 years. Nearly 55% in the Pahad and 73% in the Tarai thought it was worse. In comparison, most respondents noticed improvement in local health care and education. More people in rural areas (65%) felt schools had improved than in cities (55%).

Similarly, the improvement in road access in the Himal and Pahad is reflected by those who felt that road connectivity was better (27% and 34% respectively).

Asked what should be done to improve health, education, water supply, electricity, and roads, more than a quarter of the respondents said it should be handed over to the local community to manage. And almost as many said political interference should stop to improve services.


WHO WANTS TO MIGRATE?

Respondents to the Public Opinion Poll were asked how they wanted to increase their income. Three quarters said they would ‘work harder’ or ‘get a better job’, only 8% said they would migrate for work. Although there are an estimated 4.5 million Nepalis working abroad, what this result shows is that people would rather stay home and work harder than migrate. In a hypothetical question, respondents were asked what salary level would convince them to migrate abroad to work. More than three-quarters of them said between Rs 10-30,000, and the rest (mainly city-dwellers) would migrate only if they earned more than Rs 30,000.

Himalmedia Public Opinion Polls 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012

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