Nepali Americans upbeat about voting in presidential race

Published On: November 9, 2016 12:40 AM NPT By: Nabin Khatiwada

TIMES SQUARE, Nov 9: As Americans get ready to elect their 45th president, Nepali Americans, a relatively new community in this country, were upbeat about voting under this unique electoral system.

For Nepali Americans, who have voted in or witnessed many elections in Nepal that are never  held on any fixed date, the periodic elections on fixed dates set by the law of the United States are themselves a novel experience.

The Law for General Elections of Public Officials states that the presidential election occurs on the Tuesday immediately after the first Monday in November. All US elections take place between November 2 and 8 in the even-numbered years.

"Though I voted in general elections in Nepal, I never got a chance to vote in local elections," said Prabhat Dhungana, who lives in North Carolina. "After obtaining citizenship here, the US system allows me  to vote not only for the president but also officials of the local town, and in a fixed period," he added.

Ramesh Sharma, who has written a book titled 'America Tatwamashi', argues that the US has set fixed election dates as the constitution attaches high value to democracy and people's rights.

Around 500,000 Nepalis are said to be living in the US. The US census shows that 70,000 of them have US citizenship. It is believed some 50,000 Nepali Americans are eligible to vote.

"I witnessed the election campaign up close and I am definitely going to vote," said journalist Jyoti Devkota.

While a few Nepali Americans support Republican candidate Donald Trump, the majority seems to support Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.

"I am an American citizen and I'm involved in US politics," said Som Gurung, who lives in New Hampshire. "As Donald Trump said harsh things about immigrants and women, not only me but most Nepalis are voting for Hillary and the Democratic Party," he added.

Gurung was active since the last few months as a coordinator of the political action committee for Madalasha Gurung, who is running for state representative from New Hampshire District 24.

"Democracy functions well here with periodic elections and a citizen like me, who entered this country some 17 years ago, has gotten a chance to contest in the polls," said Madalasha.

"Nepal has been unable to hold local elections for the last 18 years, but a person who entered the US just 17 years ago is contesting the office of state representative," said  Peshal Pokharel, a writer. "This shows how periodic elections make democracy functional and vibrant."

The number of Nepali Americans directly involved in US politics is, however, not significant.

"Nepali Americans with voting rights are a very small number, and we are still more interested in the politics of Nepal than that of the US," said Milan Karki, who lives in Boston.

As of the filing of this report, Americans are lining up at polling booths to vote, and the final opinion  polls, barring a couple, have shown Clinton ahead in the race.

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