KATHMANDU, May 17: Even as the main opposition CPN-UML maintains an early lead in the second day of vote-counting Monday, initial results point to a mixed outcome for the first phase of local elections.
Early trends indicate a close competition between UML and Nepali Congress in a majority of the races, with the CPN (Maoist Center) in third position .
A total of 49,377 candidates are in the race for 13,555 local body positions, including in Kathmandu and three other metropolitan cities, one sub-metropolitan city, 92 municipal councils and 182 rural municipal councils.
As of going to press, UML had sealed victory in the races for mayors and chairmen of 14 municipalities and rural municipalities while NC and CPN (Maoist Center) respectively have won 13 and 11 mayorships and chairmanships.
Similarly, NC is leading in 81 such seats while UML and Maoist Center are leading in 75 and 42 seats respectively.
These are very early results, but political parties and independent observers say this election is unlikely to be very different in outcome from the last two elections. They expect a mixed verdict, with the distribution of votes among the top three parties not very different from the first and second Constituent Assembly elections.
Nevertheless, in analyzing the votes counted so far, some new patterns could be spotted.
Indications are that pre- election alliance are benefitting only some parties. CPN (Maoist Center), which forged an electoral alliance with NC at the eleventh hour, appears to have benefitted more from that arrangement. Maoist Center leaders said that they are satisfied with the performance so far by the party which suffered a split following the second CA polls.
“We are disappointed with the party's performance in major cities like Pokahara and Kathmandu. But the overall performance, especially in rural areas, is satisfactory,” said Maoist Center spokesperson Pampha Bhusal.
Electoral alliance appears to have done little for the fortunes of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), the fourth largest party in parliament. The Kamal Thapa-led party seems to be headed for a stinging defeat in the local polls. It is leading in just seven races for mayor and chairman.
Early trends also show UML gaining in places where the party suffered past defeats. It is leading for now in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bharatpur and Pokhara-Lekhnath. It is neck to neck with Nepali Congress in more than two thirds of the total seats for which vote counting is underway.
Despite early lead in vote counting, NC's charm for the urban middle class seems to be waning. In places like Kathmandu Valley, where the party used to be strong, it appears to be losing a significant portion of the vote base. In the CA polls of 2013, NC had won eight out of the 10 seats. The party had also won two seats each in Chitwan and Kaski.
The party, however, is doing better in the far-western and mid-western regions.
What is unique about this election is the 'unexpected performance' of new parties without any solid electoral history. Though new to politics, Bibeksheel Nepali Party and Sajha Party are doing far better than many had forecast. Their combined vote for mayor of Kathmandu is higher than that for UML, which is taking an early lead.
These new parties appear to have succeeded in breaking into the vote base of the major parties in Kathmandu and Lalitpur.
“There is a deep sense of resentment among urban youths toward major political parties. But it looks extremely difficult for them to win any seats. They could impact the outcomes of the top three parties,” Krishna Pokharel, professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, told Republica.