Kathmandu looks set for unpredictable race

Published On: May 11, 2017 03:10 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, May 10: The Kathmandu mayoral race, which otherwise would have been a close two-sided contest between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, is turning into an unpredictable battle with the ‘promising entry’ of new parties. 

Kathmandu Metropolitan City goes to polls in the first phase of the local elections on May 14. All parties are putting extra efforts to secure their victory in Kathmandu due to the huge influence of the capital city on Nepal’s political, social and economic spheres.
A total of 18 candidates including some independent candidates have filed their nominations for the Kathmandu mayoral race. Though Nepali Congress and UML, two major parties with significant support bases, are still seen as favorites for the top position, mayoral candidates of new parties have added a new dimension to the race.

Though it looks extremely challenging for the new political startups to win the Kathmandu mayoral race, they are certain to upset the traditional vote banks of the major parties. 
Among other mayoral contestants, candidates of Naya Shakti Nepal, Sajha Party and Bibeksheel Party Nepal have had promising electoral campaigns. CPN (Maoist Center) leaders said that Pabitraman Bajracharya, who is common mayoral candidate of Naya Shakti Nepal and Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, Sajha Party candidate Kishore Thapa and Bibeksheel Nepali Party candidate Ranju Darshana are likely to split the vote banks of NC and UML more than that of the Maoist Center. Bajracharya comes from a UML background.  

“Though media popularity does not necessarily translate into votes, their role is likely to be important in shaping the outcomes of the polls. The number of votes these parties get could decide which party will win. What we should not forget is Kathmanduites have a history of supporting candidates over parties,” said Former KMC mayor Keshav Sthapit of UML. He said that the alliance between UML and Rastriya Prajatantra Party has put the UML mayoral candidate in a comparatively better position.  He thinks that UML’s agendas for the elderly are also likely to help the party. 

CPN (Maoist Center) leaders hope that the emergence of new parties has made the party’s candidate Sarbottam Dongol, who was previously considered an underdog, a strong contender. Maoist leaders are of the view that the new parties are likely to divide vote banks of Nepali Congress and UML giving them certain edge over the two major parties.

NC leaders asserted that the party’s candidate Raju Raj Joshi “is strongest among the candidates given the party’s traditionally strong hold” in the capital city. 

Maoist leaders are also counting on the caste background of their mayoral candidate who comes from a Hindu Newar background. The party believes that it will get more sympathy votes than UML candidate Bidya Sundar Shakya, a Buddhist Newar.  According to the 2001 Nepal Census, 84.13% of the Newars are Hindu and 15.31% are Buddhist, but most of the Newars practice both Hinduism and Buddhism.

“Our candidate has better chance of winning as he is a local Newar and a leader with good popularity on the ground,” said Pampha Bhusal, CPN (Maoist Center) spokesperson.

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