May 152017

Typical scene from the May 14 local election: peaceful voting in general, says EC

Initial Election Commission (EC) figures suggest a huge voter turnout: 71 percent! But was it a peaceful local election on May 14? In general it was, says the EC in a preliminary status of this first phase of the election process.

Indeed, reports on violent incidences are relatively few so far. The local election covered 34 districts – the rest of Nepal’s 75 districts are slated for local elections on June 14 – and (only) in four of these districts was violence reported:

Bombs were part of local election violence: socket bomb detonated by the army in Bhaktapur (photo: AP)

BHAKTAPUR: Early Sunday morning, a socket bomb – one of many leading up to the election – was found near the residence of UML mayoral candidate for Madhayapur Thimi Municipality, Madan Sundar Shrestha, and was detonated by an army bomb squad.

HUMLA: Supporters of Nepali Congress (NC) candidates and “rebel” candidates clashed around a polling station, and police fired two shots in the air to get the situation under control as supporters of NC’s candidate, Bhim Bahadur Shahi, and rebel candidate, Prakash Bahadur Shahi, pelted stones at each other.

Security was tight at the polling stations but booth capture and theft of ballot boxes did occur (photo: Skanda Gautam)

DOLAKHA: UML candidates and their supporters blamed NC and Maoist-Center candidates and cadres of capturing the election booth, preventing UML supporters from casting their votes and even from reaching the polling station. In one ward, police fired shots and a woman sustained minor injuries.

DOLAKHA: In the Melung Village Council area, police opened fire when NC and Maoist Center cadres attacked police to capture the election booths at the polling station. One man was shot and killed as a result. Locals told journalists in Dolakha that other people were injured in the incident as well.

In Kalikot, ballot boxes were stolen after voting was done, in a situation like this one (photo is from Lamjung district)

KALIKOT: Two persons were injured when Chand-Maoist cadres clashed with police in Malkot Village Council and police opened fire. Throwing stones at the police, the Maoist cadres were trying to capture the ballot boxes and set fire to them.

KALIKOT: An unidentified group – suspected by police of belonging to the Chand-Maoist faction – robbed the ballot boxes in the Naraharinath Village Council area as plainclothes police were bringing the ballot boxes to the counting station. The police officers involved have gone missing as well.

In the evening on May 14, the UML asked the Election Commission to arrange for re-election in a number of districts (the names of which are not known to us) where – the UML claims – election booths were captured and voters were put under threat.

To this account should also be added violent incidences during the days leading up to the election:

Family members and party friends demanding justice after murder of Kul Bahadur Tamang, son of local UML candidate in Dolakha

DOLAKHA: On May 9, Kul Bahadur Tamang, son of a local UML Ward Chairman candidate, was attacked and killed by Maoist Centre cadres in the Gaurishanker Village Council area. A total of 49 local cadres have been charged with involvement in the incident.

RUKUM: On May 9, Maoist Centre and UML cadres clashed in Musikot, leaving three injured. Police fired three rounds in the air to disperse the agitated crowd. Earlier on that day, police fired warning shots at a nearby Sanibheri Village Council polling station as well.

Police at the site of clashes between NC and Maoist cadres in Rukum

NAWALPARASI: On May 10, a bomb went off during an NC campaign speech at Purano Kawasoti Bazaar. The bomb exploded while Amrit Shrestha, an NC ward chairman candidate, was addressing a crowd, and everybody subsequently fled the area.

NAWALPARASI: On May 10, police recovered and disarmed socket bombs at the houses of three mayoral candidates in the district. The bombs were found at the houses of Maoist Center candidates, Durga Dutta Dhungana and Dansiram Bashyal, as well as UML mayor candidate, Bhimlal Adhikari, in Madhyabindu municipality.

SYANGJA: On May 11, a socket bomb was recovered at the residence of NC mayoral candidate in Galyang Municipality, Lal Gopal Aryal. The bomb didn’t go off, says police, because it was wet from the rain.

BHAKTAPUR: On May 12, a cylinder bomb exploded in the Changunarayan Municipality area right in front of the residence of RPP leader, Madhav Khatri. Eight window panes in Khatri’s house were shattered.

BHOJPUR: On May 12, a UML cadre, Sharda Tamang, was shot at with a rifle while out for an evening walk by a Maoist Centre cadre, Ekindra Bhujel, at Helaucha in Bhojpur municipality.

JUMLA: On May 12, a bomb exploded at a polling center near Bhairab Secondary School in the Sinja Village Council area. The incident happened at night.

HETAUDA: On May 12, an unidentified group – possibly Maoist Chand cadres, police says – abducted a Maoist Center ward chairman candidate in the Manahari Village Council area, Ram Kumar Uprety, while he was leaving home to go for a walk.

DHANGADHI: On May 12, the army defused two bombs planted at two separate locations in downtown Dhangadi. Police suspect Maoist cadres led by “Biplov” to be behind the bombs with the aim of spreading fear among voters.

Will election violence play a role in the local election on June 14 as well? Indeed, the potential for violence seems greater in the Terai district, given the Madhesi issue, but hopefully the generally peaceful conduct on May 14 – albeit incidences did occur – will come to inspire the second phase.

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May 082017

On April 20, the local election was split into two phases: May 14 (1st phase) and June 14 (2nd phase)

It’s a virtual cliffhanger to follow the drama in the run-up to the local election. The election was recently split into two phases – May 14 and June 14, as opposed to just May 14 – and now the second phase may be in the balance.

For reasons never made quite clear to the public, the newly formed six-party Madheshi coalition, Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), continues to reiterate a Madheshi demand for more local government units in their districts.

Madheshi leaders demand more local government units to be added in their districts

On March 8 the government partially met this Madheshi demand. It adjusted the decision of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission (LBRC) upwards – from 719 local units to 744 – in order to grant more local units (Village Council divisions) to the Madheshi districts.

But the Madheshi coalition was still not content. They demanded more local government units in their districts. The UML made strong objections and yet, on April 28 the government granted the RJNP another 11 local units.

The LBRC defined the number of local units in its report of January 6 (picture) but it was changed to satisfy Madheshi demands

The UML objected as the LBRC was the body mandated to determine the number of local government units. The LBRC submitted its final decision – 719 local units in total – in January after much political interference already.

The government seemed to argue, on its part, that unless giving at least partially in to this Madheshi demand, the Madheshi coalition would boycot the local election and likely even try to obstruct the election in their districts.

The two-phase local election allows time to debate and satisfy Madheshi demands and avoid another Madhesi protest (picture)

But adding local units alone is not enough to appease the Madheshis. Their further demand – amidst UML protest – is that the government has a constitutional amendment in favor of Madheshi interests approved in parliament.

Indeed, on April 20 the local election was split into two phases – the election in the Madheshi districts to be held only on June 14 – after a government decision made to allow more time to debate and satisfy Madheshi demands.

After impeachment of Karki and RPP’s exit: can the government have Madheshi amendment passed in parliament?

Last week, the cliffhanger of the June 14 local election got worse. The RPP decided to leave the coalition government in protest against an impeachment of Chief Justice, Sushila Karki, issued by Maoist and NC government leaders.

Without the RPP onboard, the Maoist-NC government may now face great difficulties in securing a majority in parliament needed to approve the Madheshi constitutional amendments, if indeed it goes ahead and tries.

Will the Madheshi demands be met before the second phase of the local election on June 14? Will the Madheshi coalition participate in the local election even if their demands, including the constitutional amendment, are not met? The answers to these questions – hence the fate of the two-phase local election – remain uncertain.

Feb 032017

PM Dahal and his Cabinet just asked EC to start preparations for local elections in mid-May

The Cabinet decided on February 2nd to instruct the Election Commission to get things ready for local elections by mid-May. So, it finally announced at least an approximate election date. Will the elections happen for sure, though? Well, it’s hard not to be optimistic. However, there are still hurdles ahead, to say the least.

The last word from the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) is that they can’t go ahead with local polls whatsoever unless the Maoist-NC government’s proposal for amendment of the constitution – which is in favour of Madhesi demands – has been passed. The Madheshi Morcha (SLMM) even pledged just a few days ago that if local elections are announced without meeting their demands with respect to the constitution, they will return to violent protest. Continue reading »

Jan 242017

Will they make local elections happen in May? PM Dahal and Chief Election Commissioner, Yadav.

It’s hard to believe but if PM Dahal’s promises and recent actions are anything to go by, local elections might happen as early as in May – 20 years after the last local election was held in Nepal. Dahal just informed Chief Election Commissioner, Yadav, that he plans to announce the election date “in a few days”, and meanwhile the parliamentary State Affairs Committee just passed two election-related bills critical to going ahead with fresh local elections.

Huge obstacles in the way of local elections still exist – at least last time we checked – such as the dispute over delineation of provinces under the new constitution and the restructuring of local units. Will Dahal somehow make local elections happen now, nevertheless? Indeed, promises of local elections have been notoriously broken in the past. But optimism with a dash of caution could seem in order… (another update will follow soon).

Oct 202016

Still waiting for the LBRC and the first local election since 1997: local politicians, here in Chitwan.

Still waiting for the LBRC and the first local election since 1997: local politicians, here in Chitwan.

Ever tried to contact a ministry by email and never get a reply? Well, many have, and now the chairman of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission (LBRC) has too. Trying for a second time to write the Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs to get data on Ilakas – the areas supposed to form the territorial basis of Nepal’s future local bodies – without getting a reply, the LBRC is about to give up on time frames and deadlines. We can’t set a deadline with such lack of cooperation from the government, says an LBRC official. So, Continue reading »

Oct 072016

Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, was just about to release the commission's report

Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, was just about to complete its assignment when… (pic:

It’s decided with the new constitution that the VDCs – the local bodies at village level – have to be replaced. But exactly when and how is still unknown. The only certain thing is that there “will be a delay”, says Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission.

The new constitution provides for three tiers of government: below the central level is the “provincial level”, the boundaries of which are still undecided, and the “local level”, undecided too. All that’s agreed is that the local units must be fewer and bigger than the current VDCs. Continue reading »

Apr 272016

Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, gets to promise local elections twice in two months (in February, then April)

Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, gets to promise local elections twice in two months (in February, then in April)

It is business as usual but stunning as always. Once again, a government leader has pledged to hold local elections “soon”. This time, it’s Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, who just yesterday promised to hold local elections in November – and that promise can sound hollow considering that two months ago the same Thapa pledged to hold local elections in April! Indeed, since 2002 shifting governments have made the same type of promises at least once a year, only to postpone again and again. Will the government hold local elections before the 20th anniversary of the last local election, held back in 1997? Well, in light of the track record so far, it seems unlikely.

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Apr 042016

Without the cooperation of strong local leaders, getting things done at local kevel often becomes very difficult: village politician

Without the cooperation of strong local leaders, getting things done at local level often becomes very difficult: village politician

It’s an experience as old as Nepali government, dating back to the Rana regime and the royal rulers before them who often had to struggle to establish a reliable and continuous tax collection system at local level. Without the cooperation of strong local leaders who enjoy a good deal of control with the local people, getting things done in small towns and villages often becomes very difficult, for any government. Now, officials in Kathmandu – this time in the guises of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) – are staring in the face of this inconvenient truth too.

Says NRA chief, Sushil Gyawali, as he recapitulates the reasons why his newly formed reconstruction authority is making such slow progress in rebuilding houses and local infrastructure: “The biggest challenge is to mobilise people. The lack of elected representatives has made it more difficult for us to work at the grassroot level.” Without strong local leadership, it is more difficult to do planned work such as counting and registering the earthquake victims, issuing victim IDs, distributing grant money, and simply getting reconstruction off it’s so far heavy feet. Elected local leaders who typically command greater respect than outside officials do would make a huge difference to reconstruction, Gyawali explains. He adds: Continue reading »

Sep 252015

Major laws have to be passed before local elections can happen - and major laws can take time.

Major laws have to be passed before local elections can happen – and major laws can take time.

The constitution was promulgated on September 20th – and the main reason for postponing local elections in Nepal seems to have vanished! Or has it? Well, if the legislation needed in order to implement the constitution runs smoothly, perhaps local elections – the first since 1997 – will happen within a year. However, it’s major laws that have to be passed, and major laws can take a long time to go through. Above all, seven provinces have to be legally created – along with various provincial institutions – and under the new constitution the country’s 4,000 Village Development Committees (VDCs) are to be re-delineated by a special commission and turned into Village Municipalities. Continue reading »

Aug 132015

Local elections are a major priority area in 2015-16: President Yadav delivering his policy speech in parliament

It was a turbulent week in the “life” of local elections in Nepal last month – as it’s been several times before. On July 8 President Ram Baran Yadav presented the government’s policy programme in parliament for the next fiscal year – 2015-16 – and made clear that “local polls” are a major priority area. In fact, the reconstitution of elected local bodies – dissolved since 2002 – is a prerequisite, the President made clear, to an efficient reconstruction process in the earthquake-affected districts. So, for those eager to again see elected local politicians coming to power, this was a major cause of optimism! Continue reading »

Jan 162015

Chief Election Commissioner, N. K. Uprety: Ready if the parties want the local election...

Chief Election Commissioner, N. K. Uprety: Ready if the parties want the local election…

It has not really mattered who formed the government, or who was prime minister. Since 2002, when local elections were first due – five years after the 1997 election for the country’s DDCs, VDCs and municipalities – local elections have been postponed as persistently as has the finalisation of the constitution. Official reason? Anything from king Gyenendra’s take-over and the Maoist conflict to growing local corruption and a need to adopt the constitution first. The Election Commission has declared itself ready to organise the election many times. But every time, the government has postponed. Want to recount the recent chapters in this “never ending story”? Check out this overview!

Nepal will hold local elections in January 2015 after a gap of 16 years, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam said on Tuesday.” July 15, 2014

Mar 232013
Still waiting for elections: local politicians

Still waiting for elections: local politicians

Never since the 1950s has Nepal been without elected local bodies for so long. How long has it been? Well, more than a decade. The last local election was held in 1997, and the popular mandate expired back in 2001/02. So it’s been a while! Since King Gyenendra took power in 2002, and continuously under the more recent governments, the local bodies – the DDCs, VDCs, and municipalities – have officially been left to civil servants. In 2008, so-called local multiparty committees were established, but only to serve in an advisory role. They were comprised of the respective local parties and meant to ensure people’s participation in local government. At first, the arrangement Continue reading »