16-22 January 2015 #741

Who cares about the constitution?

Nepalis are more concerned about inflation, unemployment, corruption, lack of water and electricity than the constitution
Om Astha Rai
Newspapers are awash with coverage of the constitution, tv and radio are abuzz with the federalism debate, but most Nepalis couldn’t care less. They are more bothered by everyday problems like inflation, unemployment and lack of water and electricity.

Less than one-third of the respondents to the Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey 2015 consider ‘delay in constitution writing’ as one of the top three pressing problems facing the country.

Inflation tops that list for more than 64%, followed by unemployment (42%) and lack of water, electricity and roads (38%). Corruption (36%) is another issue that people are concerned about. Only 29% of the respondents are bothered by the delay in constitution writing.

Himalmedia conducts annual nationwide public opinion surveys, and this year’s poll was conducted in three districts of Kathmandu Valley with Nepal’s caste-ethnic composition, geographic regions, gender and socio-economic status proportionally represented among the 1,019 respondents.

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Disaggregating the data shows that women (70%) are more worried about inflation than men (58%). And men (33%) worry more about constitution than women (24%). Literate and educated people are more concerned about constitution than illiterate ones. Likewise, Hill Dalits and Muslims care more about the constitution than Hill ‘upper’ castes. However, across caste, ethnic and gender lines, the constitution is not deemed as important as the price rise, joblessness and shortages of daily commodities.

In Bhaktapur that lags behind Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts in terms of physical infrastructure and literacy, only 10.3 % people consider the delay in constitution-writing as one of their three major problems. Relatively more people seem concerned about constitution in Kathmandu (32%) and Lalitpur (28%).

What an elderly Dalit tailor in Anamnagar of Kathmandu told one of the poll enumerators sums up the public pulse. Dhan Bahadur Nepali, 71, said: “What I care about is to work freely during the day and sleep well at night.”

That most Nepalis worry more about their daily problems than the constitution is not a new revelation, and reaffirms the results of Himalmedia surveys in previous years. In every survey over the past decade of political upheavals, the people seemed more preoccupied with taking care of their families and surviving than politics.

However, compared to previous surveys in which most respondents saw a glimmer of hope in CA elections or in the peace process, we sense in this year’s survey a growing sense of indifference about the constitution. Nearly half the respondents feel that the country’s general condition is worsening, and more than 40% say they don’t really care about the new constitution.

Through this year’s Himalmedia opinion poll, Nepalis have once more voiced their rejection of violence and intimidation. At a time when the UCPN(M), Madhesi and other fringe parties are calling general strikes to stop the NC and the UML from passing the new constitution by using their combined two-thirds strength, most Nepalis say ‘no’ to the shutdowns. Nearly 84% of respondents said the UCPN (M)-led alliance of opposition parties should call off the street protests. Fewer than 10% supported the current street agitation.

The survey also shows that Nepalis do not believe a new conflict is possible. As many as 73% of respondents said Netra Bikram Chanda ‘Biplav’,  who recently split from the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-UML, is incapable of waging a new war. They know that the country is no more ripe for revolution as in 1996 when Chanda’s original party, the then CPN (Maoist), took the country into a 10-year insurgency in which 17,000 people were killed.

When asked if Biplav could do what the CPN (Maoist) did nearly two decades ago, Sharan Bahadur Rai from Bhojpur who has been living in Kathmandu for the last few years, told a Himalmedia poll interviewer: “The road to the jungle is closed.”


For a more complete analysis of poll results in Nepali see Himal Khabarpatrika on Sunday.

The people matter, Editorial

This is what we think, Om Astha Rai

Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey 2015, Om Astha Rai

Beyond the deadline, Anurag Acharya

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