Nepal: Fractious Polls – Analysis
By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On May 13, 2022, at least two persons were killed and 24 were injured in four poll-related incidents of violence in different parts of the country. Some of the prominent incidents of the day included:
- A youth, identified as Bir Bahadur Katuwal (18), was killed and another sustained injury in Police action after a dispute between two candidates escalated in the polling center at the Kalika Secondary School polling station in Katari Municipality-10 of Udayapur District in Province No 1.
- A 35-year-old man, identified as Sudip Rai, died in a violent clash between activists of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-Maoist Centre) at Sotang Rural Municipality-3, in the Solukhumbu District of Province No. 1.
- Fifteen persons sustained head injuries in a clash that erupted during polling at the Kharidi Primary School in Gadhimai Municipality-3 Laxmipur, in the Rautahat District of Province No. 2. The clash took place after a dispute between two parties during the voting.
- Eight persons, including a polling official, were injured in clashes that erupted at two polling stations at Mahadev Secondary School at Chakheli Rural Municipality-2 in the Humla District of Province No. 6.
Further, between February 7, 2022, the day of the announcement of the Local Body Elections and a day before the polling on May 13, 2022, at least 37 persons were injured in three separate incidents of clashes/violence reported from across the country.
Some of the prominent incidents reported during this period included:
May 11: More than 20 persons were injured in a clash between cadres of the NC and CPN-Maoist Center at Bhorle in Nilkantha Municipality-6 in Dhading District of Province No. 3. Interestingly, an election alliance was forged between the NC, the CPN-Maoist Center, and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Socialist (CPN-Unified Socialist) in the district.
May 11: A bomb exploded at Milanchowk in Butwal in the Rupandehi District of Province No. 5. Though no one claimed responsibility, a pamphlet with the name CPN-Maoist Center was found on the spot, in which the people were asked to boycott the local elections.
May 6: Over a dozen Police personnel and five cadres of the NC and CPN-Unified Socialist were injured when their cadres clashed at Pandusen in the Budhinanda Municipality of Bajura District in Province No. 7.
The second Local Body Elections were held in a single phase on May 13, 2022, to elect 35,221 members to 753 local level units in six metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 276 municipalities and 460 rural municipalities.
Significantly, the 2015 Nepal Constitution instituted a three-tier federal structure, with each of the federal, provincial, and local level units functioning autonomously.
It is useful to recall here that the first Local Body Elections after the promulgation of the new 2015 Constitution, were held in the three-phased elections on May 14, June 28, and September 18, 2017.
Between the date of announcement (February 20, 2017) and final day of polling (September 18, 2017)], of the first Local Body Elections, 11 persons were killed and 97 were injured in 19 separate incidents of clashes/violence reported from across the country.
Meanwhile, according to the Election Commission (EC), so far, (data till May 30, 2022), 35,045 people’s representatives had been elected. Results of 176 seats were yet to come. The NC had the maximum number of people’s representatives, at 13,758; followed by the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), 11,893; CPN-Maoist Center, 5,045; Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N), 1,539 and other parties and independents, 2,810.
While political violence itself represents a dangerous trend, the clashes among the members of the five-party Joint Ruling Alliance, which includes NC, CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal and Rastriya Janamorcha, does not augur well for Nepal’s polity and overall security. Significantly, despite being in government, these parties failed to forge a comprehensive alliance and contest the elections together. On April 25, 2022, Minister for Urban Development and leader of the CPN-Unified Socialist, Ram Kumari Jhakri, thus wrote on Twitter,
The [electoral] alliance has not been satisfactory and respectful. We were unable to create a cordial atmosphere even among the alliance member parties. There was a show of arrogance [by alliance partners] during talks. Meanwhile, after listening to the expressions of some of the leaders of the coalition, it seems someday we need to settle our scores with them. That’s it.
The violent clashes among members of these groups during elections may lead to a further weakening of the alliance and collapse of the government at the Centre, which has never been in a settled state since its assumption of power on July 13, 2021. Further destabilization may create serious security issues for the country, as fringe extremist elements continue to threaten violence, and are likely to act on their warnings if a sufficiently ‘favourable’ environment comes into being as a result of the fractious parties operating within the constitutional mandate.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management