By-elections unlikely to affect national politics, analysts sayGiven the organisational structure of the traditional parties, observers say there is little chance for newcomers to enter the system.
As election campaigns officially come to a halt, all eyes are now on the possible results of the by-elections, as the polls are a significant mid-term litmus test for the political parties.
On Saturday, by-elections will be held for 52 positions, including a vacant seat in the House of Representatives. This poll will determine the election of three provincial assembly members, one mayor, three rural municipality chairpersons, one rural municipality vice-chair, and 43 ward chairs.
Top ruling party leaders, including Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, have admitted that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) will face a tough time maintaining the seats they got in the previous polls. However, the Nepali Congress, which has the opportunity to grab the seats it lost last election, does not have any better prospects, given its lethargic performance as an opposition as well as controversies of its own, say analysts.
While the by-elections won’t change the existing dynamics of the government, they do help cement existing values and rebuild trust among voters, and provide a gauge of votes before the next major elections.
“Money and muscle continue to be prime factors in winning elections and that needs to change,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a political commentator. “None of the candidates has new or unique commitments and they continue to chant the same old slogans.”
And given the set structure of the constituencies and the local level, there is little chance for newcomers to get into the system, said Maharjan.
According to Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst, the results of Saturday’s by-polls will indicate to some extent the popularity of the parties.
“If the Nepal Communist Party loses its grip on the constituencies and local-level seats it won earlier, people will assume that its popularity is waning,” said Subedi. “So the results of this poll will be an indicator of the parties’ popularity.”
Garnering even a single seat in the federal parliament or the provincial assembly would be a great victory for the opposition Nepali Congress, said Subedi. The primary opposition party does not have much to lose on Saturday, as only 12 wards among the total 43 vacant seats belonged to the Congress.
Though the elections may affect the parties, it will not have much impact on national politics, according to political commentator Bishwa Bhakta Dulal.
“This is just a regular process of the parliamentary system,” said Dulal. “I don’t think there will be much difference in the results of Saturday’s polls.”
Since the traditional parties have strong organisational structures, politics alone won’t be the crucial factor in winning the polls, he said. The traditional parties like the Nepal Communist Party, Nepali Congress and Samajbadi Party Nepal all have more than 100 different affiliated organisations, all mobilised at the ground level to influence voters.
“There exists a small number of independent voters, but they will not be enough to swing the polls,” said Subedi.