7 MIN READ
Electoral constituency delineation is a part of the political maneuvering of any ruling parties, whether in Nepal or elsewhere. Questioning the delineation process and its outcome was highly unlikely during the Panchayat regime. Even after the restoration of multi-party polity, the ruling parties gerrymandered electoral constituencies in favor of their own candidates. It was only after the April Revolution of 2006, followed by the Madhes Movement 2007, that all the dominant ruling parties began to be part of the delineation process and politics. Among the Madhes Movement’s demands had been the re-delimiting of constituencies in Madhes, since the number of electoral constituencies had not been allocated in proportion to Madhes’s population.
Voters are the determinants of election
Nepal has made population the main basis of delineating the electoral constituencies. This criterion does not hold any logic from the vantage of the individual constituents as their votes determine election results rather than what the population of a location is. Furthermore, the state of Nepal has introduced a rule which is inconsistent with the norms and values of inclusive democracy and political diversity: a political party must secure at least 3 percent of the total valid vote cast in the country to qualify as a national party, and at least 1.5 percent to qualify as a provincial party. Political parties that fail to cross these bars will not have official status in the eyes of the Election Commission and the state of Nepal. In effect of this rule, more than one million votes were considered null and void in the recent federal elections for not being able meet the “three percent threshold”. The individual representatives elected through first-past-the-post (FPTP) by such marginal parties will have independent status in parliament. Such marginal parties and their representatives will not have recognition in national politics and parliament. Therefore both the input and output of elections in relation to the political parties’ status, elected representatives, and the constituencies are determined by the number of votes both in directly electing peoples’ representatives and sending them up through the proportional electoral system. Voters are the real constituents for electoral constituencies, not the population.ECD criterion benefit capital cities at the cost of others
The total population of Nepal is 26,494,504 of which the total number of voters is 15,427,731 (58.22%). As the country has been delineated into 165 federal and 330 provincial constituencies the average number of voters per federal constituency is 93,500, while the average voters per provincial constituency is 46,750. However, using population size as the main criterion for delineating electoral constituencies has benefitted capital districts, namely Kathmandu and Lalitpur, by gaining an unjustifiably high number of constituencies at the cost of the share of other districts. The chart below shows the extent of this inequality:
Kathmandu has 603,620 voters but holds ten federal constituencies whereas Morang, with the largest number of voters 644,785 in Nepal, is allocated with only six constituencies. Similarly, Jhapa’s voters comprise 72% of the total population and holds 5 constituencies. Among the districts above, Kathmandu has the least number of voters (34.6%) out of its total population while Jhapa has the largest ratio (72%) of its total population, followed by Kavre (71.29%). Similarly, Lalitpur has more constituencies compared to neighboring districts. All three districts, namely Dhading, Makawanpur and Kavre outnumber the number of voters of Lalitpur whereas the latter holds three federal constituencies compared to only two in all three surrounding districts of the Kathmandu valley.
Kathmandu has 603,620 voters but holds ten federal constituencies whereas Morang, with the largest number of voters 644,785 in Nepal, is allocated with only six constituencies.
The wide variation between the number of population and the number of voters in Kathmandu and Lalitpur is because of the floating population in these two districts. These cities are the center of education, employment, and other opportunities, and they attract the people from all across Nepal. While the temporary residents of Kathmandu are counted as population, their political and electoral commitments lie elsewhere in Nepal. This is one of the reasons why only a third of the population of Kathmandu are voters.
Enormous deviation from the average number of voters for constituencies
We saw that 93,500 and 46,750 are the average number of voters per federal and provincial constituencies respectively.The chart above shows that Kathmandu needs only about 60,000 voters to gain one federal constituency whereas Kavre district, with only two federal constituencies, needs 136,000 voters—more than double the count of Kathmandu—for one federal constitutional seat. Of all the seven selected districts, five districts—except Kathmandu and Lalitpur—show well above the average number of voters per constituency. Some provincial constituencies of Kathmandu are four times smaller than those from Kathmandu’s surrounding districts. For example, a provincial constituency from Kavre comprises 71,312 constituents compared to the same from Kathmandu with merely 17,668. Some interesting results could be seen as a consequence: some of the candidates, namely Dolakha, and Jhapa won the election by huge margin of more than 500,000 compared to the total number of voters being merely 42,000 in Kathmandu-1.
An injustice to the constituents
Our floating populations are larger than ever before as a result of migration coupled with rife inequality. Having population as the criterion for electoral constituency delineation will not do any justice to the actual constituents, as the voters are the real determinants of election results. Therefore, the number of voters should be the basis of delineating electoral constituencies.
Dambar Chemjong Dambar Chemjong teaches anthropology at Tribhuvan University. He was a member of the Electoral Constituency Delineation Commission, Nepal in 2007 and 2013.
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