People have lost hope, and it’s manifested in low voter turnout

Ram Chhetri from Paknajol in Kathmandu was not unsure if he wanted to vote. He felt his vote would not matter and was confident that he would not vote. But, on Friday morning, Chhetri has a change of heart as he went to vote.

“I voted in hope that things will change. I know it won’t and I’ll be left disappointed, but I have to try,” he said after voting.

Chhetri has voted in both federal and local elections that have taken place in the country. But, both times he was left disappointed because nothing happened. He says people came with ambitious promises but have failed to meet even the basic expectations of the people.

“I didn’t expect much. I wanted a clean city and a regular drinking water supply. Along with that, I had hoped the roads would get better and they would solve the city’s sewage. Aren’t these simple demands,” he questions.

Many voters like Chhetri feel that political leaders do not care about them after the election even if they treat the voters like gods before it. This has given rise to pessimism amongst voters not just in Kathmandu but in other metropolitan cities in the country. Perhaps this is a reason why the Election Commission did not get as high a voter turnout as it had expected.

A display of detachment

“These politicians always come to us and say they will work towards the betterment of the society and we believe them,” says Chhetri. “But, people are sick and tired of these politicians and their political parties because they know nothing will change. Many of my friends feel that voting is pointless as things never change.”

He says that the elected representatives should work on making the city better. They should focus on smoother administrative work, better roads and improved schools and health facilities. But for Chhetri, these leaders have done nothing to earn votes as he hopes someone new wins.

Waste piles up on a Kathmandu road, in Kathmandu, in May 2022.
Waste piles up on a Kathmandu road, in Kathmandu, in May 2022.

The polling station in Paknajol was not what it was five years ago. The place was oddly quiet. The number of people at the polling station was much fewer than the officials had hoped for. The general feeling among the Election Commission‘s officials was there was not much excitement amongst voters.

That was proven by the low voter turnout. According to the commission, only around 60 per cent of Kathmandu’s voters turned up to vote, which shows how many are disappointed with how things are going on in the city.

Votes being wasted

Local Sunil Maharjan also did not feel any excitement when he went out to vote on Friday. He felt that this was mainly because of people’s disgust towards politics and politicians.

“People have realised these leaders will not work and their votes are being wasted. That is why the voter turnout was low and there was hardly any enthusiasm among voters,” said Maharjan, adding he himself does not feel the person who he voted for will do any good.

Gehendra Ratna Sthapit from Bag Bazar felt leaders have betrayed people who have voted for them time and again. He felt since people know that these leaders would bring nothing new, there was no excitement among voters.

“You think people expect these leaders to do anything? Our demands are basic, yet these leaders can’t fulfil them. If they work for the betterment of the society, people will come and vote automatically they won’t need to come to beg for votes,” said Sthapit.

He said the many people were frustrated with politics and politicians as most of them did not work on what they promised, were not transparent and did not adhere to the demands made by the public.

Sthapit was not going to vote. He had made up his mind, but after he saw news of empty polling stations and low voter turnout, he decided to vote. 

“All they need to do is clean the city and manage roads. That’s all I hope that the person I voted for will do these,” said Sthapit.

Voting for the sake of voting

Buddhi Maya Shrestha from Paknajo-16 has been voting for years but she’s not seen any change. 

“They only recognise and come to us to ask for votes. After we vote, they don’t even remember us,” added Buddhi Maya.

But despite that, she voted this year like other years without expecting anything.

“I hope the people who will be elected be involved in less politics and more work. We need change we deserve change,” she said after she voted.

A young man carried an old man to a voting station for the local elections, in Kathmandu, on Friday, May 13, 2022.
A young man carried an old man to a voting station for the local elections, in Kathmandu, on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Tanka Bahadur Thapa was in Bag Bazar observing the election. Originally from Jhapa, he was asked to go to his village and vote. But, he did not go as he does not feel his votes would make any difference, clearly signifying another reason for low voter turnout.

“I’ve voted many times expecting change. But, this year I didn’t want to go because it’s just a waste of time,” he says. “If I vote, nothing will change. If I don’t vote nothing will change. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

Thapa said he would have gone and voted if he saw changes. But, he feels his votes were taken for granted by the politicians who have disrespected voters like him for years.

Bajhang’s Nawaraj Joshi also did not go because he, like Thapa, does not respect politicians or the work they have done in the past five years. He has personally seen how elected representatives misuse their power for their own good and disregard citizens.

“If they worked well, Nepalis didn’t have to go abroad for work. They don’t work to develop society. All they want is to get rich. Why will I vote for people like that,” he says.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length. 

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