Monarchy Popularity Sinking in Nepal, But People Want Ceremonial

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Opinion Poll: 87 percent of Nepalis think that ‘king and monarchy are becoming unpopular in the last few years’. But 54 percent think ‘there should be space to king or monarchy in future.’

By Tilak Pathak

At a time when Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is advocating for the ‘ceremonial’ monarchy, an opinion poll has concluded that the king and monarchy in Nepal is being unpopular. But a slight majority of people, mostly uneducated, want to continue the monarchy in one form or the other. A survey conducted by a non-governmental organization called ‘Interdisciplinary Analysts’ after the April Revolution concludes, “Monarchy is becoming unpopular in the eyes of people because of the activities of King Gyanendra.” 87 percent of the participants in the poll think that ‘king and monarchy are becoming unpopular in the last few years’. Only 5 percent ‘do not think that monarchy is being unpopular’ where as 7 percent opted to choose ‘don’t know’ option. Region wise, overwhelming majority (91.7 percent) of Central Development Region (where Kathmandu is located) development region feel monarchy is going downward where as 74.8 percent in Far West feel the same.

The poll shows that the palace massacre is the reason for descending popularity of the monarchy (40 per cent think that’s the reason). A statement issued by King Gyanendra immediately after the massacre claiming that the “firing occurred suddenly from an automatic gun” created doubt about him in people. The royal commission formed to inquire about the incident contradicted the king’s claim.

32 pre cent in the poll blame king Gyanendra’s behavior and 17 percent credit royal government’s anti-democratic actions for the declining popularity of the monarchy. 4 percent think that’s because the ‘palace’s conspirative characteristic’ where as 5 percent selected the “I don’t know’ option. The conclusion of the opinion poll signals the uncertain future of monarchy and king in Nepal.

Villagers think palace massacre is the reason for sinking popularity where as city dwellers blame royal regime’s anti-democracy activities for the same. Equal number (32 percent) blame Gyanendra’s habit and activities. Religion wise, 68 percent Kirats, 50 percent Buddhist and 39.2 Hindus believe palace massacre is the reason for sinking popularity where as 16.4 percent Hindus think it’s because of the anti-democratic activities of royal regime that popularity of monarchy is sinking. 33.3 percent Hindus blame king Gyanendra’s habit and activities for the same.

Even as the popularity of the monarchy is sinking daily, the survey says, people want to continue the institution in constitutional or ceremonial form because of the traditional relationship of people and palace. Responding to a question “do you think there should be space to king or monarchy in future?” 54 percent said “yes, there should be” and 39 percent said “no”. “Nepali people are still divided over the issue of monarchy,” said Sudhendra Sharma, Director of the institute that conducted the poll. More people in mountainous and hilly region don’t want monarchy than those in Tarai area.

The more people are educated, the more they are against the monarchy. Only 28.1 percent uneducated said they don’t want monarchy where as 66.7 percent people with masters degree opined against monarchy.

Majority of those in favor of giving space to king and monarchy choose for constitutional (34 percent) or ceremonial (18) form. That means people wanting to give ‘ceremonial in whatever way’ space make 52 percent. Some 28 percent chose “I don’t know” option. 45 percent among those in favor of continuing monarchy wanted to do so because of monarchy being part of tradition where as 17 percent said it’s because ‘the ancestors of the current king unified our country’. 11 percent reason that ‘monarchy is the national symbol of unity.’ The traditional claim of the palace that ‘monarchy is the symbol of national unity’ has been contradicted by the poll result.

38 percent of those who don’t want the continuity of monarchy reason that they think so because monarchy is ‘feudal and barbaric institution’ where as 27 percent feel ‘monarchy doesn’t [help] develop the country.’ And 15 percent think they are against monarchy because ‘it worked against democracy’, 8 percent think monarchy ‘brought about division among people’.

63 percent feel Maoist problem will be solved through talks where as 13 percent don’t think so. 23 percent don’t know about the issue. 59 percent think the ongoing peace talks will solve the problem where as 12 percent said no.

Do you feel popularity of king and monarchy is sinking in the past few years? (All figures in percentage)

Yes- 87
No- 5
Don’t Know- 7
Don’t want to say-1

Where do you feel the obstructing is coming from against solving the current problem?

Don’t know- 50
Current government- 8
Foreigners- 7
King and palace- 10
Seven Party Alliance-12

Peoples’ understanding of Constituent Assembly

I have heard about it- 59
I have understood- 23
I have correctly understood-18

If you have heard about the constituent assembly, do you think the election of CA is necessary?

Yes- 98
No- 1
Don’t Know- 1

Do you think CA election will be held in free atmosphere? (Asked to those who have heard about CA)

Yes- 54
No- 38
Don’t Know- 7
Don’t want to say-1

Do you think there should be international supervision of the CA election to make it free and fair?

Yes- 76
No- 20
Don’t Know- 4

Do you trust Maoists?

I don’t trust- 17
I don’t trust at all- 17
Dont’ Know- 6
I trust them somewhat- 45
I trust them very much-12

Do you trust political parties?

I don’t trust- 17
I don’t trust at all- 19
Dont’ Know- 7
I trust them somewhat- 45
I trust them very much-11

Do you feel the government is working on to restore peace in the country?

Yes- 66
No- 15
Don’t Know- 18
Don’t want to say-1

Do you feel the Maoist leadership is working on to restore peace in the country?

Yes- 68
No- 11
Don’t Know- 20
Don’t want to say-1

UWB blogger Tilak Pathak is a Nepal Magazine reporter. A longer version of the this story appeared in Nepali in the magazine.