Nepali Times
An extended CA and a  Maoist-led government


What should be done if the Constituent Assembly (CA) is unable to complete writing the constitution by May 28?

In early April, Himalmedia conducted the latest in its series of nationwide public opinion surveys. The poll team, overseen by professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, Krishna Khanal, interviewed 5,005 respondents in 38 districts. This included a one-day poll (7 April) in 28 urban areas to aim for accuracy in a fast-changing political scenario.

The intention was to gauge public opinion and measure the gap between what the majority of Nepali people want and the preoccupations of the political parties, the relative popularity of those parties, and the level of trust people have in political personalities.

Which three parties would you choose to lead Nepal to prosperity?

The most dramatic, but perhaps not surprising, outcome was how the public's trust in the political leadership has plummeted since the elections in 2008. To the question 'Since the demise of Girija Prasad Koirala, which political leaders do you trust to take the peace process forward and finish writing the constitution?', respondents most favoured Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai with 38.7% and 29.7% respectively. But apart from Madhav Kumar Nepal (23.4%) and Sher Bahadur Deuba (20%), no other leaders have really made an impression on the public, with 27.8% choosing 'don't know'.

The poll also sought answers to public perceptions of the Maoists. While they were seen to be most responsible for creating obstacles in the peace process (30.1%), 26.8% strongly believed they would renounce arms and violence for good and 40.7% had some belief this would be the case.

To what extent do you believe that the Maoists will permanently give up arms and violence and join the political mainstream?

Most Nepalis expressed concern about the constitution not being written on time. About half blamed the CA members, 35.8% felt it was the government's fault and 31% said the Maoists were responsible. The most popular course of action was a constitutional amendment to extend the term of the CA (42.6%), followed by CA dissolution and fresh elections (12.7%). Most rejected presidential rule (2.8%) or a return to the 1990 constitution (2.5%). There was almost no support for a new uprising (0.8%).

To resolve the power-sharing deadlock, 24.4% favoured the Maoists leading a new coalition government while a further 20.7% favoured a UML or NC-led unity government including the Maoists. Only 16.4% wanted the Madhav Nepal government to continue, with negligible support for handing over power to the president (or the former king, for that matter).

Nepal has been declared a federal state. What do you think?

Respondents appeared to be almost equally divided in assessing the army chief affair of last year that led to the resignation of the Maoist-led government. Although 41.6% professed ignorance, 22.4% felt the president's move was correct, 19.9% thought the Maoists were right, and 14.8% thought both were wrong. Unsurprisingly, Tarai respondents were more supportive of the president's move.

Nearly a third of Nepalis don't know how to resolve the dispute over the assimilation and rehabilitation of Maoist guerrillas. A quarter said only those who met the military's criteria should be integrated into the national army, and 18.3% felt there should be wholesale integration into the army as the Maoists want.

In the future constitution, a majority (70.8%) wanted Nepali to be the language for official government business, although Nepali as lingua franca received 79.2% support in the hills (including indigenous groups) and 61.2% support in the Tarai.

How should the Maoist combatants in the cantonments be managed?

The country seems divided over federalism, with those against it making up 36.3% of respondents and those for it making up 27.2%. But 32.2% didn't know. Slightly more people in the Himal and Tarai were against federalism, including many from ethnic communities. If federalism is to go ahead, however, about equal numbers (25%) favour federalism along ethnic/linguistic and north-to-south territorial lines. Interestingly, 16.1% favour retaining the current development region or zonal system, which to a large extent is demarcated from north to south. The One Madhes proposal of the MJF, however, was opposed by 65% of respondents, although nearly half the respondents in the Tarai supported it.

It's no surprise perhaps that with the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity and confusion, along with all the talk of ethno-linguistic federalism, 76.1% of respondents felt Nepali nationality was under threat (82.6% in the Tarai). More surprising then that it is inter and intra-party conflict, far ahead of communal or foreign forces, that's considered the prime culprit.

2010 survey

From 5-18 April 2010, 76 interviewers fanned out across 38 districts in 146 VDCs in the mountains, midhills and plains of Nepal to survey 5,005 people selected through scientific random sampling. On 7 April, interviews were conducted in 28 urban areas on the same day. The survey was led by TU political science professor Krishna Khanal and an experienced team of pollsters who have taken part in previous Himalmedia polls. After fine-tuning 31 questions, interviewers were given thorough training in selecting respondents and conducting the survey, including the importance of conducting separate interviews in private.

In a post-survey debriefing, interviewers said they found a marked difference from the Himalmedia poll of 2003. During the conflict, people were reluctant to talk and there was considerable tension and fear. "This time, we found respondents much more relaxed, even though there was apprehension that the country could slip back into to war," said poll team leader Hiranya Baral.

Sunita Shrestha, a pollster in Kanchanpur, ended up being interviewed herself after completing the survey when she was asked: "Now you tell us, what will happen after May 28?" Many, especially women, either didn't know or didn't want to answer some of the questions. But they wanted to know if the political deadlock would drag the country back to war. In Rolpa and Palpa some respondents were still wary of talking about the Maoists and refused to answer some questions. In Gulmi, a female interviewee even came up to a pollster and whispered her answer to a question on whether or not the Maoists had given up violence for good.

Despite this, many interviewees wanted to engage the pollsters in conversations and although many blamed the Maoists for the political deadlock, they also felt the party had improved with regards to their behaviour. "The Maoists are seen to be the best of a bad lot of politicians," said Bhim Karki, who conducted interviews in Banke, "but the general feeling was they were responsible for destroying things, so they should be the ones to fix it."

What surprised many interviewers was how quickly Nepalis seem to have forgotten about the monarchy, although pockets of supports were found, for example among Muslims in the western Tarai.

Don't know/No comment

As with previous polls, there were large numbers of 'undecideds' that made it difficult to come to a conclusive verdict based on the survey results. There were at least as many people who didn't want to say or hadn't made up their minds on the question of the political personality they trusted the most as there were poll votes for Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who led the list. Similarly, on the question of which party was the main obstacle to the peace process, undecideds made up 40.9%, far ahead of the second choice, the Maoists (30.1%). On the question of what should be done with the Maoists in cantonments, undecideds (30.2%) outnumbered those who felt combatants who met the criteria should be integrated into the national army (25.1%). A Himalmedia poll predating the 2008 elections suggests that most undecideds end up voting for the Maoists.

Interestingly, though, there were very few don't know/no comments for the question on whether the monarchy should have been abolished, or on the question on whether Nepal should be a Hindu or secular state.

Looking for leaders - FROM ISSUE #500 (30 APRIL 2010 - 06 MAY 2010)

1. prakash thapa
kudos to Mr. Dixit and the Nepalitimes for the survey which is much better than the government surveys. It is also commendable that it correctly stated that about 80% of those wanting Nepal to be a Hindu state were Hindus. It would add credibility if the ethnicity and class of respondents were also stated. Most if not all of the surveys conducted in Nepal are conducted in a biased manner and hidden agendas - particularly government ones and surveys which state that 90% of the population are Hindus.

2. Unknown

Himal Media's undertaking of conducting surveys is a step towards the right direction. Lets hope this leads to more surveys in the future.

While I am not an expert in survey design, I can't help but wonder the threats to validity of this particular survey, e.g. the question "Which three parties would you choose to lead Nepal to prosperity?" Why is it three parties and not five or just one. Is there a bias towards the three largest political parties in Nepal. Is it any surprise that the three biggest political parities score high in this catogery?

3. Sargam

Sorry folks, I tend to think that all your 'camemberts' are wrong. How can you hold yourself together when you simply try to dump the democratic moods of Nepalese by ¬ giving us a pale copy of haphazard and freak confirmation of its quite opposite sign which is meant for just to please your business trends?

I am going to retain my demeanor hoping firmly that you folks would also bag your assignment with your country. .¬

4. Bishnu Thapa
Overall, the survey does a pretty good job gauging the public understanding of the current state of the Nepalese politics, especially with regards to CA.  However, I have the following concerns:

1) It is laudable that the survey was conducted in so many districts. Assuming (as the report states) that the survey was SRS, the survey would have been able to get a better understanding of the situation if it had used some screening questions before moving into the final interviewing. Given that the survey was conducted in very diverse places, I certainly would not expect all the people to understand the terms used in the survey. For example, so many people do not understand "federalism."

2) The survey does not mention anything about the issue of non-response. While we know that the 5,005 were selected for the surveying, it is unclear whether or not all of them actually completed the survey.

3) In the question "Which three parties would you choose to lead Nepal to prosperity?," the word "prosperity" is too general and somewhat vague.

4) Some of the response categories (options) are not very well balanced. Consider the following response category:
(a) should be federal (b) shouldn't be federal (c) full decentralization is better (d) don't know (e) no comment
In the given response category, the introduction of full decentralization is very random. Moreover, it also shows that the interviewer has an inadequate understanding of the difference between federalism and decentralization. Looking at the response options, the respondents get the impression that federalism may be the opposite of decentralization (but then that is meant to be taken care by the option "shouldn't be federal", isn't it?). In fact decentralization and federalism can coexist. Decentralization is a much broader concept and federalism is a type of decentralization. Federalism in neither a sufficient nor necessary condition for decentralization.

6) Also, the fact that there are so many people who say "don't know" suggests that the target population should be reevaluated. Add to this the number of people who may have chosen the first available option just for the sake of responding and without actually understanding the question.

5) The survey is somewhat biased because it inflates the responses of people who understand the current political dilemma that the country is facing. As hinted earlier, these people do not form the majority.

Despite these concerns, I still think that the survey does a good job of gauging the public opinion on an important issue. Thank you!!

5. Lal
Good survey. It would have been more authenticated if the methodology of the survey have been described in bit more detail.

6. Skewed survey
surveys of this sort smack of notoriety given the sensitivity of the matter, and coming from Kunda Dixit. case in point the graph abt "which party will lead Nepal to prosperity" is in no way reflective of the results of CA elections held only 2 years ago. preposterous!

7. Satyajeet Nepali
As always, Nepali Times tries hard to downplay the monarchy. However, those who believe a referendum should settle the question of monarchy/republic (and other important questions) are not demanding one because people "miss" the monarchy or can't forget it and so forth. A referendum is necessary because it is the right thing to do. Political parties don't have the right to impose their self-serving agendas on us. The parties didn't create the monarchy. The people (our ancestors) did. So the Nepali people should be given the direct choice whether to retain or remove it. A referendum is also a good way to discipline our politicos. It'll drive home the lesson that power and sovereignty is vested directly in the people of this country, not in political parties or other such organized groups. I repeat, a referendum is necessary because it is the right thing to do. It will set a desirable precedent in national politics. 

8. Concerned
Survey was funded by Indian Embassy and awarded to K.D and his team. I have seen plenty of these propoganda coming out of Nepali Media houses and ther bosses in Delhi.

9. nirmal

Please describe the sampling methodology, statistical significance.....

There are learned people also....this type of thing mislead the population.
Remember the media house opinion polls for constitution assembly election.......we haven't forgotten this tooo....just two years back....

10. anti-Indian
And why, pray, would the Indians fund a survey in which the UCPN-M come out on top? The Indians are not even trying to hide that they are propping up Makuney. The last thing they will do is allow the UCPN-M into government. they want our hydropower for free. You can accuse the Indians of meddling in a lot of things in Nepal, but even conspracy theories like #8 need to be somewhat credible.

11. Sargam
Every time I  regard deep inside the Nepalese heart I find it so enthusiastic and hopeful of taking a quantum leap to best the backwardness almost imposed by the circumstances around.

Thereafter, I realize almost all are born and brought up in Indian culture right from their childhood. And most astounding is they almost all have the Indian origin surnames.

Faire enough, they see Indian telly, they enjoy Indian flicks and also Indian music and recettes of food.

All this shows Nepalese' unswerving and everlasting intimacy with Indian culture. 

Then, all of a sudden somebody starts Indian bashing. And almost all join him to echo his ranting.

There is something wrong in this episode. Should this scenario of a good neighborhood ain't quite exciting, not enough gory to the taste of spectators?

Lately, after Prachanda, the awesome self-expelled from the government the echo of Indian bashing multiplied by several decibels. As of now, after such a tedious strike they all need to eat. If the population do not know they must be in the know one day because the current balance sheet of accountancy shows quite distinctly that Nepal owes several billions of Rupees to India. They are actually living on credit. When they go hungry Nepalese turn toward India.

Supposing India begins treating Nepal as they treat Pakistan and as a consequence all border accesses would be closed. Then who do suffer? Is that Nepal or India?

If we were on the north slope of Himalaya we would be forcibly Chinese by now. As we are in the south slope of it we are closer to India in all aspects. We cannot efface the geopolitical stance of our country.

I for one never heard an Indian claiming to occupy Nepal, not in my knowledge. Then what retains us to harmonize our better understanding with our both neighbors of the north and the south?

I figure that is called to live in better acquaintance and better intelligence essential to look toward the same direction called progress. 

12. Nick Sharma
If you look at the surveys conducted by NT in the last few years, you start wondering why they conduct surveys at all because 90% of their results are wrong. Survey after survey conducted by NT had shown GPK as a spent force years ago. I remember  a photograph of GPK in the cover of one of its publication  descending down a helicopter after an election rally and it was captioned with a very tounge and cheek heading- ORLADA GIRI-JA. Roughly translated into Nerpali it meant- The  final fall of GPK. That was more than 5 years before GPK's death during which time he continued to be the undisputed kingpin ( by NT's own admission now) of Nepali politics.......This time, however, the surver team is headed by a respectable person with a sound academic background. And that is why the results are worth perusing.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)