Nepal holds local elections for first time in 20 years
By The Kathmandu Post
17 May 2017

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN News Desk) - Fifty thousand candidates vied for local leadership positions in the first round of local elections in Nepal on Sunday. 

Nepal reached a major milestone on Sunday after it held its first local elections in 20 years. 

Voting for the first phase of elections was held on Sunday in 281 local municipalities across three provinces to elect more than 13,000 representatives. Over 50,000 candidates took part in the election, according to Al Jazeera.

The election has brought new political parties to the forefront in what is widely seen as a boost for democracy in Nepal. It also marked the first time the country went to the polls under its latest constitution, which came into effect in 2015. 

The Sajha Party, which was announced just about a month before the elections, has fielded its candidates for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor in Kathmandu and Lalitpur. 

The Bibeksheel Nepali Party, which is trying to make its space in the Nepali political spectrum for the last four-five years, has fielded a 21-year-old mayoral candidate in Kathmandu. 

And there is Naya Shakti Nepal, a party formed by former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist ideologue and the architect of the decade-long armed struggle. The name of Bhattarai’s party itself means “new force”

But as the counting began on Monday, either the Nepali Congress or the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) – two of the country’s largest political parties – was leading in most of the places. 

It will be too early to rule out the possibility of new forces’ emergence in the political spectrum, but as preliminary results trickled in on Monday, it looked like the Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxist-Leninists, termed traditional parties by some, have not lost their vote banks. 

So can the new parties like Sajha and Bibeksheel emerge as stronger forces?

“These new parties have brought a new wave, but I don’t think the wave is powerful enough [to steal the NC, UML votes],” says Chaitanya Mishra, a sociologist. “Emergence of the alternative parties indeed is encouraging; but fears persist... these alternative forces might turn into traditional forces.” 

Over the last years, a growing disenchantment with existing political parties, which have ruled the country in turn, was palpable, with people often complaining about their failure to bring tangible changes in the society. 

But despite that, if the preliminary results are anything to go by, the so-called traditional parties’ hold on their vote bank appears somewhat intact.  Does this mean there is no hope for alternative forces in the country as yet? 

The old forces’ in leading positions in local elections does not prove their excellence, according to Naya Shakti Nepal’s Bhattarai. 

“It could be the lack of a credible alternative force,” Bhattarai tweeted. “Maybe there is a need on the part of new forces to introspect.” 

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