Who will be the next Kathmandu mayor? This is a question that is in everyone’s mouth. Will it be independent candidate Balen Shah or will it be UML’s Keshav Sthapit or Nepali Congress’ Sirjana Singh? With the vote count going on at a snail’s pace, it is likely to take over a week to find out who will be Kathmandu’s mayor.
There are 32 wards in Kathmandu and so far, officials have only counted all votes of wards 1 and 2 only. Likewise, the count of votes from wards 3, 4, 5, 31 and 32 has also begun. According to the vote count in these wards, Balen Shah has taken a healthy lead everywhere. As of Monday afternoon, he leads by 3,324 votes. But, this is just a start as around 90 per cent of Kathmandu’s votes are yet to be counted.
The crucial core city
A total of 191,186 people voted in Kathmandu. Cadres from both UML and the Nepali Congress-led coalitions say the tables will turn once they start counting votes from the core city where there are 43,067 votes in 12 wards. For whom these people vote will determine the winner and loser of the ongoing mayoral race.
Balen Shah during many interviews had said that he would be getting a lot of votes from outer Kathmandu. But, he did hope that people from the core city would also vote for him.
While Shah hopes that people from the core city will vote for him, his hope has always been to get as many votes as he can from the outer city.
As of now, he has got double the vote than Sthapit. His lead over Singh is more than double. There is a feeling among people from Balen Shah’s camp that the lead will increase further. But, the UML and coalition camp believe their candidates will do better in the long run than Shah.
Hopes and fears
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The wards whose votes are being counted are believed to be UML’s stronghold. But, Balen Shah has taken a strong lead in the area which has been a cause for concern for the UML. It is quite evident from the votes that the majority of people want youth to lead their city as Shah and UML deputy mayor candidate Sunita Dangol both have a healthy lead over their competitors.
But, UML and Sthapit are not losing sleep. The party believes it will make a comeback as most of its voters are from wards 16 and 31. Along with that, it also projects it will get a lot of votes from wards 5, 6, 7, 13, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, and 27. But, the UML knows it will face competition in wards 8, 12, 14, 23, 25, and 30.
The Nepali Congress-led coalition also claims its votes will increase in as more wards are counted. Cadres from the party say they will challenge the UML in wards 5, 6, 7, 13, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, and 27. The Nepali Congress-led coalition believes Sirjana Singh will pip Keshav Sthapit and Balen Shah to become Kathmandu’s mayor.
According to some Nepali Congress leaders, they will get a lot of votes from wards 7, 8, 13, 14, 16, 23, and 26. Ward 16 is key in all this as it has the most voters in Kathmandu at 20,175, out of which 12,336 voted. Another key area is ward 32, where 12,015 voted. According to the preliminary reports, Balen Shah is likely to get more votes than any of the political parties in ward 32, where the count has already started.
But, the determining factor on who wins will all depend on what the core city does. Both Sthapit and Singh are from the Newa community and are counting on their votes to win the election. But, with the two cutting each other votes along with another independent candidate Suman Sayami, it will be interesting to see what happens.
Balen Shah, who has become a beacon of hope for the youth, will hope that people from the core city would have voted for him too.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.