May Analysis: Federalism

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Timeline of Major Events

DateEvent
May 6Gandaki Province held a pre-budget discussion with experts
May 13Local Level Election completed
May 14Vote counting commences
May 19Pre-budget discussion commenced
May 20Pre-budget discussion concluded
May 26The Election Commission of Nepal directs re-polling in Budhiganga, Bajura.

Election results across the provinces

In 753 local level units, 33,715 representatives are to be elected in 7,743 wards. 390 representatives have already been elected without any opposition as only 1 candidate filed a nomination for each of these positions. As the election was completed successfully on May 13th, 12,182,449 cast their votes, i.e., 68.7% turnout. The election commission has directed the home ministry to hold re-election in Budhiganga municipality of Bajura district. The overall results have shown that the coalition of the parties has benefitted the ruling parties’ alliance. Throughout the provinces, Nepali Congress has secured the mayoral position in the majority of the municipalities, but CPN-UML accounts for the highest votes received in various posts, i.e., 34.13% of total votes were cast for CPN-UML, 33.04% for Nepali Congress, 13.36% for Maoist Centre, 4.10% for People’s Socialist Party, 3.93 for Unified Socialist. Even though overall, the 5 ruling party coalition has succeeded to attain most of the leadership positions in various municipalities, we can still conclude that the opposition party CPN-UML still holds great support from the people throughout the nation.

Photo: RSS

Vacuum in the local units

In the previous local level election conducted in 2017, the newly elected representative assumed their offices on May 20. Former elected representatives ended their tenure on May 19th and seats in the local constituencies remain vacant after that. Hence, vote counting in this election should have been concluded by May 19 for the local level constituencies to run the offices without the posts being unfilled. The local level election act 2017, Article 55 states that if the election is held before the tenure of the local-level representative is ended, then the newly elected representative shall assume the office the day after the expiration of the tenure period of former representatives. The election date decided by the parliament provided only 6 days for vote counting till the local-bodies posts go vacant. The major cities take the longest as the voters exceed 100,000 people, making the one-week time period to count votes insufficient. Even 2 weeks after the conclusion of the local-bodies election, few districts still were behind in finishing the vote counts. Even though election commission officials had stated that they would put in the efforts to publish results by May 19, but did not consider the fact that the vote-counting in the major cities in the 2017 local elections had taken over 2 weeks to conclude. Not only does this leave the posts vacant for a certain time period but preludes the parliament and the election commission’s dereliction of duty. 

The locus of independent candidates winning the election

In this election, many had filed for candidacy as independent candidates across the country. The reason as to why they filed for candidacy was the reason for changes and the need to work for development as per the local need. NC has its roots established in the centre and even other political parties such as CPN-UML, the Maoist centre have a major influence in the city. Even in such circumstances, the winning probability of an independent candidate is observed to be high. Currently, Balen shah, elected for the mayoral position in Kathmandu, won over the support of many voters in the district. Similarly, independent candidates have won in Jankapur, Dhangadi and Dharan. Even though the ruling parties have a stronger mass base, the reason behind independent candidates winning reflects people’s distrust of the mainstream parties. The parties fail to fulfil the commitments they pledge during the election. Hence, this message is then reflected in people’s voting for independent candidates. Yet, the elected independent candidates cannot work without collaborating with the mainstream parties. To fulfil the agendas of the people mainstream parties and the independent candidate must work in harmony to make the next 5 years fruitful.

Ignorance of public issues and lack of public engagement

The political culture of Nepal is more or less based on power, money, nepotism and hooliganism. Promoting successors even in politics is a trend that has been practised in Nepal from earlier years. Similarly, in a speech given by our former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said to vote for the CPN-Maoist, or else a crisis might befall the country. Such a statement has made the people and party members question his intentions. It only seems that he is campaigning for his daughter Renu Dahal, standing as a candidate in Bharatpur district, with the support of Prime Minister Deuba who sought votes for her as well. Nepotism is favoured ahead of democracy. The work towards a democratic approach is compromised, where the politics is limited to their descent. Likewise, NC leader Arzu Deuba has given a controversial statement stating the budget would not be released to the local governments where NC representatives are not elected. The autocratic tendencies of the leaders of the country have had people questioning the true motives of the people in power. Abuse of power, authority and resources from the taxpayers raises the issue of a fair and democratic process of the local election. Moreso, the outcome is self-centred politics and the real grass-root level issues such as corruption in the local government, poverty, people’s need and social and infrastructural development are side-lined. 

The cases of corruption in the local government are rampant as the no. cases filed throughout the previous years are numerous.  According to the annual report of 2020/21 of CIAA, the cases related to local and federal government consist of 32%. This was the due season the political parties could have highlighted their main agenda but the focus is mostly seen in campaigning themselves for the election. Political parties rushed their party’s manifesto near to the election date, which held back the public scrutiny it required. Besides, the majority of the parties published their manifestos centrally, which is to assume all the local-level issues and needs be dealt in the same manner.

Budget announcement for the Fiscal Year 22/23

On May 29th, Finance Minister Janardhan presented the budget for the fiscal year 79/80. The budget size for the fiscal year consists of Rs. 1793.83 billion; 24% of the budget, accounting for Nrs. 429 billion, has been allocated to the sub-national governments. The government expenditure not only impacts the economy of the federal government but also provinces and local governments’ establishment and development. Some of the sectors the federal government has allocated to the provincial and local governments are agriculture (Nrs 10 billion for the local and provincial governments to conduct agricultural projects), health (Rs. 6.36 billion and Rs. 27 billion for provincial and local governments respectively to the health department), and education (Rs. 5.32 billion and Rs. 121.01 billion for the provincial and local level). Of the Rs 25.03 billion allocated to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration Rs. 6.35 billion and Rs. 5.6 billion have been assigned to provincial and local governments respectively. Many have criticised the budget to be rather bloated and made with the sight in mind of the future elections of the federal and provincial governments. In the previous years, the provincial governments have shown dissatisfaction with the allocation of budget,where the federal government lacks consideration towards provincial and local governments’ factual issues and needs. Even Gandaki province conducted their pre-budget discussion with the experts. The two-day discussion consisted of strengthening federalism, economic growth, creating employment opportunities, and import substitution. Similarly, a meeting on budget at the provincial assembly of Karnali province had been arranged for May 30 and 31.

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