[Note: This article contains data visualizations that are best viewed on a larger screen, some contents maybe clipped off on mobile or tablet screens]
On May 26, 2017, The Supreme Court of Nepal ordered the government not to implement the Cabinet decision of May 22 to increase the number of local electoral units in 12 districts in Madhes. According to a news report by The Kathmandu Post, “The government decision followed the recommendation of a taskforce led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar that suggested adding 22 local units in Provinces 1, 2, 5 and 7 and making the two cities in the eastern region [Birgunj and Biratnagar] metropolises.” It also reported that, “The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), formed after the merger of six agitating Madhes-based parties, had been demanding that the number of local units be increased along the plains.”
Controversial Decision by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court decision was controversial. First, a writ was filed by three UML politicians – Kapildev Dhakal, Dwarikanath Dhungel, and Jagadeesh Baral. Some news reports have claimed Dhan Bahadur Shrestha along with ‘two others’ filed the writ. Then, a bench of justices, Ishwor Khatiwada and Sapana Malla Pradhan issued the order. Sapana Malla Pradhan was a parliament member of the UML party and was nominated as a SC judge by the UML party. It is immoral and unethical for Ms. Pradhan to decide on a politically motivated writ registered by her own party. The decision was hailed by the UML party as a victory. This collusion between members of legislature and judiciary affiliated with UML defied the principle of separation of powers and put a stain on the notion of democracy in Nepal.
The greater issue still remains unanswered, do districts in Tarai in states 1, 2, 5 and 7 need more local electoral constituencies/units, as recommended by the government? Check out our article “Local Electoral Units Per The Constitution“ that uses Nepal constitution to argue that delimitation of local electoral constituencies need to be be determined according to population as main basis and geography as secondary basis.
None of the media reports provide any details about how many local electoral units are currently allocated in each district, state, or geographical region. Of the proposed 22 additional local units, how will they be distributed among the four states? Since media reports skip the details, I decided to analyze the number of local electoral constituencies/units in each district, state, and geographical region. The terms electoral units and constituencies are used interchangeably in this article. This article will use data to examine two issues:
- Are 22 additional local electoral units needed in States 1, 2, 5, and 7 in districts in the Tarai region, as recommended by the government? This decision by government was rejected by the Supreme Court.
- Is RJPN’s demand for adding local units in Tarai (along the plains) justified?
Local Electoral Constituencies by Geographical Region
The visualization below shows the percentage of total population and the number of local electoral constituencies in each geographical region. It can be seen that Himal has 6.74% of total population but 17.21% of local electoral units. Similarly, Pahad has 42.89 % of total population but 46.90% of local electoral units. Likewise, Tarai has 50.36% of total population but only 35.88% of local electoral units. In summary, Himal and Pahad have a proportionally higher share of local units. Tarai has a significantly lower share of local units compared to its population.
This visualization is sufficient to show that RJPN’s demand for adding local electoral units in Tarai is justified.
In order to allocate local units proportional to their respective population, two scenarios could be used.
In the first and unlikely scenario, the number of local units would be determined based on population. The visualization in Scenario 1 shows that Himal would have 59 units, Pahad would have 337 units, and Tarai would have 384 units. As a result, Himal would have 69 less units, Pahad would have 12 less units, and Tarai would have 117 additional units. The total number of local units would increase from 744 to 780. I believe this is an unlikely scenario because reducing the number of units in Himal and Pahad would create problems.
The second scenario is more likely since it does not reduce the number of units in any geographical region. Also, it is more fair, in my opinion. Truth be told, Himal and Far-Western Nepal have suffered just as much as southern Nepal, Tarai-Madhes. The level of poverty, illiteracy, and human development index in Karnali is similar to many districts in Madhes, notably Rautahat, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Siraha. Jumla and Humla are remote and ignored just as much as Rautahat and Mahottari, if not more. One is ignored due to its distance from the center and the other is ignored because of its proximity to India.
So, Himal needs more local units on the basis of geography even though it has a smaller population. So, it should get to keep 17% of the local electoral units, nearly three times its population of 6.74%. It could get even slightly more units, if necessary for its development.
Pahad should also get to the keep the slightly higher percentage of local units and also get some more units. In this scenario 2, I suggest that Madhes get more local units to bring the balance on par with Himal and Pahad. In short, Himal and Pahad keep the higher number of local units and Madhes gets more units to fill the gap.
The visualization in Scenario 2 shows that Himal would have 128 units, Pahad would have 412 units, and Tarai would have 384 units. As a result, Himal would have the same number of units, Pahad would have 63 more units, and Tarai would have 117 additional units. The total number of local units would increase from 744 to 924. While scenario 2 increases an additional 180 units, it achieves equality without reducing the number of units in any geographical region.
These visualizations show that merely adding 22 local units would not achieve equality in all districts. A total of 36 additional local units could achieve equality, if the number of local units in Himal and Pahad were to be reduced, as shown in scenario 1. Alternatively, a total of 180 local units would need to be added for equality, if the number of local units could not be reduced in districts of Himal and Pahad, as shown in scenario 2.
While it is true that the number of local electoral units need to be added mostly in Tarai, they should be added also in some districts in Pahad such as Udaypur, Bhaktapur,Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Makwanpur, Kaski, and Surkhet. See Which Districts Need More Local Electoral Units? for more details.
Every human being is created equal and in a democratic society, each vote should weigh the same and their representation should be proportional to their population. In order to evaluate whether each district or geographical region has a fair share of local units, I plotted the percentage of local units against the percentage of their population. The visualization below has three components. The top chart shows the current allocation of local units. It can be seen that the allocation is not fair. The districts in Himal (blue) and Pahad (orange) have a lower share of population but a higher share of local units. The districts in Tarai (green) have a lower slope because they have proportionately lower number of local units.
The middle chart shows the revised allocation of local units proportional to its population, as shown in scenario 1. The relationship is linear and slope is same for almost all districts in all three geographical regions. That is what true equality would look like.
The bottom chart shows the allocation of local units in scenario 2. A nice straight line shows that there is an almost linear relationship between the proportional number of local units and its corresponding population. The relationship is not perfectly linear because the number of local units in some districts in Himal and Pahad have not been reduced for practical purposes. Instead, local units have been increased in districts in Pahad and Tarai to achieve an equitable distribution.
In a fair and democratic society, relationships between population and electoral units would be linear.
About The Data
We believe in data transparency and in a democratic society, political decisions should be based on fairness. If you are further interested in this data visualization, check out the complete data visualization on our website or download the dataset below for your own independent analsis. Please share your results.
You could download a copy of this data in a Google Spreadsheet. Since this data was not publicly available in a suitable format, I manually extracted the data from a PDF document and formatted it to list the number of local electoral units in each district, state, and geographical region.
Local Electoral Constituencies – Google Spreadsheet