Nepalese Set High Bar for Government Before Crisis

by Julie Ray

Urban Nepalese less likely than rural Nepalese to express support

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Months before the collapse of Nepal's Maoist-led coalition government in early May, a Gallup Poll conducted in October 2008 showed citizens largely mixed on whether the coalition would be able to work together effectively, but still slightly more optimistic than pessimistic.


Nepal's eight-month-old government crumbled last month following a political crisis sparked when Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal sacked the country's army chief for refusing to integrate former Maoist guerrillas into the armed forces. Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav vetoed Dahal's decision, which prompted the prime minister's resignation. More than a month later, internal power struggles and Maoist strikes continue to impede the new ruling coalition's efforts to form a government and threaten the future of Nepal's peace process.

Nepalese polling
A Nepalese woman is interviewed in rural Kathmandu Valley, Nepal on Wednesday, June 10, 2009. (Gallup/Nicole Naurath)

Nepalese attitudes in October 2008 reflected citizens' uncertainty about whether the country's first post-royal government, formed just two months prior to the survey, could effectively work together. But overall, Nepalese confidence in their national government and approval of their country's leadership were higher than Gallup had recorded during the last few years of the monarchy, perhaps reflecting more their expectation for the future rather than based on any real change. At the time of the survey, at least 6 in 10 Nepalese told Gallup they approved of the nation's leadership (61%) and had confidence in its government (68%).


Further, a majority of Nepalese (57%) said at the time of the survey that the government was leading the country in the right direction. However, not all Nepalese were as convinced: Urban residents (43%) were far less likely than rural Nepalese (60%) to believe the government was leading the country in the right direction (though they were still more likely to believe the government was charting the right course than to believe it was charting the wrong course for the country).


Similar large gaps also existed between urban and rural Nepalese regarding their approval of the nation's leadership and confidence in the national government. Fifty-six percent of urban Nepalese vs. 70% of rural Nepalese expressed confidence in the national government, while 50% of urban Nepalese vs. 63% of rural Nepalese said they approved of their country's leadership.

Political and communal differences between urban and rural Nepalese largely explain the disparities in their support for the coalition government that was then led by the Maoists. Rural Nepalese, who gave the government higher marks, form the Maoists' support base, while urban Nepalese form the support base for the rival Nepali Congress Party and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).

Interestingly, though Dahal and Yadav are affiliated with rival parties, there were no differences at the time of the survey in urban and rural Nepalese approval of the two men at the epicenter of Nepal's recent political crisis. Strong majorities in each group approved of both men's leadership.

Bottom Line

Although Gallup's survey in Nepal was conducted well ahead of the recent political turmoil, the results show that early on, Nepalese had doubts as to whether the coalition government would be able to work together effectively. Still, at the time of the survey, the Maoist-led coalition enjoyed considerable public support, despite vast differences between the confidence levels of urban and rural Nepalese.

But now, Nepalese find themselves governed by a coalition that is missing the party that many voted into power (the Maoists have not joined it). Failure on the part of the new coalition government to find common ground on issues of national interest and move the peace process forward may potentially undermine the trust and confidence that people had in the notion of democracy.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,003 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in October 2008 in Nepal. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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