In a state of disillusionment


A new nationwide opinion poll quantifies widespread public disillusionment with the political leadership in Kathmandu, but shows that people have formed a generally favourable impression of local governments in the past three years.

Of those polled, nearly 47% said they did not trust Prime Minister K P Oli, with the same level of distrust for Chief Ministers, MPs and federal ministers. There was even more distrust of the leaders of political parties: 60%.

When asked which was the political party most likely to work for democracy in Nepal, a full 62% said they did not know or did not want to say-- an opinion that has been reflected in previous Himalmedia Public Opinion polls.

This survey was conducted by Sharecast Initiative Nepal between 21 February to 3 March, just ahead of  the 7 March Supreme Court decision that dismantled the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) into the previous UML and Maoist Centre.

Asked which is the most reliable party to strengthen democracy in Nepal, the Nepali Congress scored the highest with 13.4%. The Oli faction of the NCP came second with 9.6%, and the Dahal-Nepal faction mustered only 4.1%. The JSP and RPP got less than 2%.

This result correlated with responses to another question about which party represented the interests of the people most. Here, too, the NC was slightly ahead (30%) of the CPN (Oli) 28%, CPN (Nepal-Dahal) had 11%, and the JSP 5%. Now that the NCP is divided between the UML and Maoists, the support will be scattered.

Surprisingly, the NC was ahead (17%) of the JSP (only 5%) in its own heartland of Province 2. Support for the NC is highest among the Tarai caste (19%) Meanwhile, the Oli vote bank seems to be among the Hill Dalit (7%).

However, mayors and ward chairs leave a more favourable impression. When asked which tier of government played the most significant role in improving living standards, an average of half the respondents across all seven provinces said it was local governments.  Significantly, the approval of local government was lowest (33%) in Province 2.

The survey studied 5,082 households across the country, with 80% of the municipalities represented. Gender, age, profession, education level were proportionally represented in the sampling.

Factional in-fighting within the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) for the better part of the past three years seems to have dashed the hopes of many Nepalis for a stable government that would look after their welfare.

Despite a two-thirds majority in the 2017 election, a poll has shown that the NCP has squandered its mandate.

The Sharecast Initiative Nepal, 2021 public opinion survey shows widespread disenchantment with the way the country is headed politically. More than 44% of the 5,082 households surveyed across the country felt Nepal was headed in the wrong direction with the sense of hopelessness highest in Karnali Province (54%).

Nearly half of all respondents said they do not trust the prime minister, chief ministers, ministers in the federal and provincial governments.

In fact, the disillusionment is so great that 63% of those surveyed said they were not even interested in politics anymore. The more educated the respondents, the more disgusted they seemed to be. Respondents in the Tarai (70%) said they were put off by politics and were not interested.

Hill Brahmins and Newas seem to be most pessimistic about how things are going, with Tarai and Hill Janjati, less bothered. This cross checked well with responses to another question about how interested people were in politics. Nearly 71% of Hill Janjati and 65% of Tarai Janjati said they were not interested. Both Janjati groups were also the ones that felt the country was headed in the wrong direction.

Most people were not as impressed with provincial governments, with the approval rating at 32%, and only 30% felt the federal government in Kathmandu was doing a good job. Lumbini Province seemed to get a consistently high approval, both at the local and provincial level.

Not surprisingly, the federal government got the worst marks (30% approval) for performance in the past three years in all seven provinces.

The most striking result from the survey is that more than 76% said none of the political parties represented their interests. The main concern of most of those surveyed were jobs, poverty and inflation, and the parties were deemed incapable of addressing them.

It is obvious that while the concern of most Nepalis is economic, they think the political leadership has failed to deliver.

The Sharecast survey also tracked the response to the question about whether the country was moving in the right direction by comparing data for January 2020 with January 2021. In effect, this was useful in gauging how important Nepalis felt the 20 December dissolution of their Lower House by Prime Minister Oli was.

While nearly 34% felt the country was going the right way in 2020, only 22% felt the same way a year later. And while 29% thought the country was headed in the wrong direction last year, more than 44% felt that way this January.

Nepal’s perpetually warring politicians should realise, if they have not already, that the people blame them squarely for the political disarray. In responses to a question about why the country was moving in the wrong direction, 50% blamed it squarely on the power struggle within and between political parties. The multiple choice question also cited political instability, weak leadership and corruption.

Among their key concerns, none of those surveyed in their response to another question cited politics. Their top worries were: unemployment, poverty, shortages, inflation, health and education. It seemed as if, even though people know that governance failure is the reason for these problems, few have any faith in the current crop of political leaders to correct it.

However, the trust in the judiciary and the Election Commission does not seem to have been dented despite recent events. More than 44% still trusted the justice system and 40% felt the Election Commission could still conduct free and fair elections.

Himalmedia public opinion polls in the past 15 years have shown an average of 60% support for Nepal to be a Hindu state. This figure has dropped in the Sharecst survey this year, even though it is still a significant 52%, pointing to a distrust of the concept of ‘secularism’ in the Constitution. Support for Hindu state is highest in Province 2 (nearly 70%).

Despite everything Nepal’s politicians have done to let the people and country down, most Nepalis still believe that democracy is the best form of government for Nepal's development. Three-fourths of those polled thought so, and only a third of those in the sample group felt democracy and federalism were under threat at present.

When asked who was to blame for democracy being at risk, most blamed ‘the government’, NCP (Oli) and NCP (Dahal-Nepal).

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