What do the following have in common: a carrot, a walking stick, a toothy grin and a shuttle cock? Answer: they are all symbols used by parties or individuals standing in the forthcoming local elections in Nepal. Other symbols include a tiger, a pair of feet and a kangaroo! There are a lot of political parties in Nepal. I counted 90 different symbols, and people vote for seven separate posts.
The Ballot Paper
These are the first local elections to be held for 20 years due to the civil war and the length of time it took to write the constitution following the advent of democracy. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation around the election of mayors and local leaders. People hope that locally elected leaders will be more accountable and more visionary than government appointees.
The UK has recently had local elections. We notice a number of differences here:
There are flags everywhere. On cars, motorbikes, houses, shops, buses and in gatherings and processions you see flags bearing the symbols of the major political parties.
Posters are placed in prominent places guiding people through the election process. This includes times, dates and places to vote, the procedure that will be followed on entering the polling station and reminders that weapons and fights are not allowed, and neither is offering food for people’s votes.
People vote, not by making a tick or a cross, but by making a swastika. In Nepal the swastika has, of course, no overtones of nazism but is a symbol of good luck and often found adorning people’s homes.
The staff of authority
Volunteers who will staff the polling stations are each issued with a bamboo staff to deal with anyone who causes trouble on the day of the elections.
There has been some doubt about whether these elections would be held because of continued political instability, particularly over the demarkation of boundaries as Nepal becomes a federal republic. It is a very hopeful sign that the elections are going ahead. They will be held on 2 different dates in separate parts of the country, May 14th and June 14th.
It’s great to see that in Kathmandu they seem to be very well organised and we are all hoping they will go off peacefully.
Other news: There is at last some movement re Jenny’s research visa. We’ll find out whether we can move to the next stage tomorrow.