Nepal’s November Election Surprise

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Early opinion polling ahead of Nepal’s November 2013 elections suggests that voters here will punish the parties they consider responsible for five years of government paralysis.

An Internet survey conducted by the Nepali Times magazine this week of voter preferences for the upcoming polls looks dramatically different from the results of the April 2008 election. Then the Maoist party, which had signed a peace agreement in 2006 after a decade-long civil war, took the most seats. Two established and mainstream parties, the center-right Nepali Congress and the center-left UML, shared second place, and a group of parties from the south of the country became a fourth political force. Royalist parties gathered less than two percent of the votes.

2008 Election
% of seats
Maoists 38.1%
NC 19.3%
UML 18.0%
Southern 14.2%
Royalists 1.8%
Other 8.6%

In this week’s survey, fewer than 15 percent of respondents chose the Maoists, seven-and-a-half percent chose the UML, and one percent chose the main southern-bloc party. These three parties have dominated government coalitions since the 2008 election and are widely seen as having all been responsible for the failure of the Constituent Assembly to promulgate a new constitution.

By contrast, the Nepali Congress garnered 24 percent in this survey, apparently because of their opposition over the past two years to a Maoist-led coalition.

An internet survey is not scientific, and the showing of the monarchist right demonstrates just how misleading one can be: The RPP-N collected nearly 40 percent of votes in this week’s survey, presumably through organized multiple voting. Support for royalist parties may in fact be rising, but certainly not to that degree.

But with the royalist votes removed and the results re-normalized, the pattern is the same: Maoists, UML and southern parties down and the NC up. That coincides with the results of a far more scientific poll taken last spring.

Tellingly, in the spring poll over half of respondents chose “None of the above,” “Can’t say,” or “Other” in preference to any of the parties. If those options had been offered this week there is no reason to think that the results would have been different.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.