May 8, 2017

Of the People, By the People, For the People...


The Himalayan nation of Nepal will hold it's first local elections in 20 years on May 14th. This is quite the milestone in Nepal's long and difficult transition from monarchy to democracy! The local campaign trail came right to our door as you can see in the above photo. Trucks with huge loudspeakers spouting slogans, catchy jingles, joyous hymns of comradery, and numerous promises have been cruising every street and neighborhood here for the past week.


The banner on the truck with the portraits of candidates in the pending election is called a "hoarding" in South Asia. I had never heard that term before living here. But we don't see these sorts of group portraitures advertising political parties in the US. About eight trucks from different parties have been coming by our house daily. Those loudspeakers are LOUD. They do play traditional Nepali music for a few minutes between bouts of rhetoric though. That's a nice touch.


I thought at first these were just party supporters following the campaign truck. Upon closer inspection I noticed these were the candidates pictured in the hoarding! No wonder they were so thrilled to have their picture taken. These Communists don't have horns and aren't waving AK-47's like my dad said. They sort of look like upstanding, middle class, middle aged folks.


Most of the equipment for the elections is being supplied by China and India. Nepal bought the 30,000 ballot boxes you see in the above photo from China. China is also providing stationery, pens, markers, thumbtacks, clips, staplers, staples, scissors, glue sticks, calculators, ink pads, punchers, and stamp pads. Motorcycles and curtains for the polling booths are being brought in from India.

Not everyone is happy about the elections though. Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic in 2007, ending it's 240 year-old monarchy. The interim constitution of 2007 had provisions for 10 to 14 states to accommodate all the various ethnic, indigenous, and caste groups in the structure of power. But the new constitution passed in 2015 reduced the number of states to only seven. 

Madhesi protestors in Saptari
Under these new boundaries it is claimed the upper caste Khas Arya will have the majority in 6 out of the seven states. The Madhesis, the Tharu, and the Kiranti are ethnic groups from Nepal's southern plains region that have been protesting the new 2015 constitution. Since 2007 the Madhesis (who are more than one-third of the country's population) have been demanding political and economic representation in proportion to their population. Although Madhesis make up  more than one-third of the country's population they only hold 12 percent of government positions including the police and army. The Khas Arya question the loyalty of the Madhesis to Nepal, on account of their proximity to and close relations with India. The Madhesis and Tharu accuse the hill people of economic and political domination. According to Deependra Jha, a Supreme Court lawyer based in Kathmandu and a Madhesi, 

"The hill-dominated political class has gerrymandered on boundary issues to ensure that Khas Arya [the upper caste hill people] remain a majority in six out of seven federal states." (Al Jazeera)

(The Himalayan)
Madhesis have vowed to boycott and disrupt any election in their region unless their grievances are addressed. Above you see a Madhesi protest in the southern district of that took place last week on Monday, March 6th. On September 23rd, 2015 the Madhesis led a 2 month blockade of the Indian border that caused a huge shortage of fuel, cooking gas, cooking oil, medicines, and other supplies in landlocked Nepal. Prices still haven't come back down on cooking gas. 

 President Bandari of Nepal and PM Modi of India   via
Experts are hopeful that these local elections will create a government that is more accountable to the people. The new local governments will be responsible for administering schools, health posts, and basic infrastructure. The Nepal Election Commission was given under three months to prepare for this vote and is racing to prepare ballots and enforce rules. The NEC must also educate the people on which jurisdictions they live in as the boundary lines were redrawn by the new constitution.


The atmosphere in Nepal is charged these days! Politicians are making inane and inflammatory remarks, riling up the base constituency, and salaciously skirting election rules. I am proud to report that democracy is alive and well in Nepal!


And of course His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan and his mama Chinger aren't too concerned about anything. 

So it's sunny and steamy up here in the Himalayas. The weather forecast warns of stray thunderstorms which is certainly better than last month's continual barrage. Oh wait, it's pouring buckets again!

Anything you'd like me to write about in regards to Nepal? I was thinking of doing a few posts about the different ethnic groups here like the Tamang, the Gurung, the Sherpa, etc. Most people mistakenly believe Nepal is one single ethnicity. There are actually over 150 different languages spoken and several different cultures in this tiny nation.

Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), Hansard, November 11, 1947


Calmly currying on,

Bibi

22 comments:

  1. I am glad you penned down your first experience of the elections, look like all the Indian influences are there as far as behavior is concerned... hehe... I totally loved the carefree attitude of your lovely cats, added all the humour... and bought a smile to my face..

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    1. Hi Rafeeda,
      Thanks for stopping by!
      It's all very exciting watching a democracy evolve here. I awoke to the sound of gunfire and helicopters this morning. Wasn't quite sure what to think! I hope it's just the army doing an exercise.

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  2. Yes, a post about the different ethnic groups of Nepal would be most welcome. Indians like the rest of the world, know only the Gorkha and their formidable khukhuri. The Gorkhas gave a very tough time to the British. They inflicted such staggering casualties on the British, that the British impressed by their bravery, enlisted them in their army. Apparently, the Gorkhas took on almost all the powers of that time: British, Sikhs and the Chinese.

    The next impression of Nepal came in 1970s, especially Kathmandu, with the bollywood movie “Hare Krishna Hare Ram”: casinos, hippies etc.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgvjLgGLwWE

    Indians do know little about their neighborhood while the neighbors know more about India due to Bollywood. Offlate, Nepal is in news due to blockades and the continuing India China rivalry.

    Democracy is the worst form of Government among all forms of Government but it is still the best bet, especially in countries where the army has the nasty habit of marching and capturing power, which has happened quite a few times in our neighborhood.

    In this context, it is all the more important that democracy flourishes in Nepal. I wish the Nepalese people luck in their democratic venture.

    Apple

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    1. Hi Apple,
      There isn't a lot of formal research published about the different ethnic groups & cultures here in Nepal. They're all quite unique and interesting.

      Bollywood is VERY popular here in Nepal- songs, movies, clothing & makeup styles.

      I wish Nepal all the luck in the world in establishing and effective government that represents Nepali's wishes!

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    2. Gurkhas claim their ancestor from Guru Gorakhnath the medieval saint.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorakshanath

      The present Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, belongs to that sect. He was the head priest of the Gorakhnath Temple located at Gorakhnath town. Another happy connection between India and Nepal.

      Apple

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  3. We call them hoardings, too. I wonder if the word is Indian and crept into our vocabulary like so many do?
    The first election in 20 years? Wow! We seem to have one every week at the moment (or it feels that way!) I hope your results are better than ours!
    Look at those cats! I love them. xxx

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    1. Hi Vix,
      A quick foray on google reveals that 'hoarding' is British & stems from Old French "hourd" which means wall. Also the stem for hurdling. That's odd, In India it specifically refers to political postings not any advertisement. In the US we call them billboards.

      The first election in 20 yrs and Nepal is abuzzz!

      xox

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    2. Hoarding also means to accumulate or collect things in secret for black marketing. Those who indulge in such activity are called hoarders. The word is used in that context also in India.

      Apple

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    3. Yeah, hoardings are oversized adverts here - not just billboards, but the ones you see round the pitch at sporting events too.

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  4. Oh, hoarding reminds me. In South India, the fans of movie stars pour milk over the billboards and cutouts of their favorite stars, just before the release of their movies. It is supposed to be auspicious. The south indians are a little too crazy about their stars.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/18/world/what-in-the-world/india-rajinikanth-milk.html?_r=0

    Apple

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  5. Fascinating glimpse into history marching down the street outside your gates, Bibi. Yes, indeed, please tell us more about the issues and the people. (I've just watched Mark Wiems' lengthy foodie visit in Bhutan and wished he had been permitted to say more about other topics.)

    Remember that wonderful scene in the musical "1776", when Franklin and Adams are walking through an alley? Neatnik Adams wails, "Look at this, look at this filth!" And Franklin (in some ways kinsman to your cat) purrs comfortably, "Never mind, Johnny. History will clean it up."

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    1. Hi Beth,
      Thank you for your opinion, I 'll start gathering info to present on the peoples of Nepal.

      I wonder if anyone really noticed or cared about public filth in 1776? Or maybe they just considered it normal?

      I think the cat's have the right attitude, no point in getting in a kerfuffle over human foibles & such.

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  6. I'd love to learn more about the different cultural groups in Nepal. Our media only covers Nepal when there has been a disaster, or someone dies climbing a mountain. That's not surprising, but I guess you can't get too many clicks with stories about things going well.

    Middle class Communists...I know many people that could describe ;)

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    1. Hi Goody,
      Even the newspapers here don't report much of the local news. Times of India and Al Jazeera usually have better coverage of politics in Nepal. Al Jazeera seems to be finding it's niche in under-covered ares of the world.

      Doesn't seem like there's going to be much of a middle class left in America, Communist or otherwise.

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  7. We have these "hoardings" In Switzerland too, of course not called that way, and like everything in Switzerland it is heavily regulated. So you only see these big posters during an election campaign, only during the allowed dates and only on the county's poster glueing spots that are allocated for public interest messages. But like in India and Nepal, they have pictures of all the candidates within a party on them, and they all have those insane grins and look about them that say "You must trust in me".

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    1. Hi Cyn,
      We are getting blasted with loudspeakers from rallies on both ends of our street today! I'd love some enforced regulations on the campaigns here!

      We don't have have political parties posting group shots in the US like that. Most political ads are for a single candidate with hugely idealized & heavily photoshopped headshots. Actually the only thing I've seen in the US like those hoardings are for real estatte & insurance sales teams where the entire team is sporting that 'TRUST ME" smile.

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  8. Hi Bibi, exciting times ! We're in the middle of elections too in France :)

    By the way, I receive newsletters from the NGO "Karuna Shechen" from time to time, they say they are trying to prevent maltrunition in Nepal - ever heard of them ?
    http://karuna-shechen.org/news/healingwithnutritioninnepal/

    Take care xxx - Pad

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    1. Hi Pad,
      You know I really haven't dealt much with private NGO's in the last few years. The name does sound familiar though!

      Happy Mother's Day!
      xox

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    2. It's an NGO created by Mathieu Ricard, translator of the Dalai Lama.

      Happy (belated) Mother's Day to you ! xxxx -Pad

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    3. Oh!
      Well, I'm not too familiar with the Dalai Lama's entourage either.

      Happy Mother's Day to you too!
      xox

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  9. Good luck, and I hope everything works out for the best - though having seen the results of our last few elections etc. in the UK I'm starting to wonder if democracy is such a great thing... ;-)

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    1. Mim,
      Maybe we should call it 'dumbocracy' ?

      Delete

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