Dissertation Abstracts

Ethnicity, Political Parties and Voter’s Alignments: A Case Study of the Democratic National Elections of Nepal after 1990.

Author: Mahato, Sanjaya , sanjaytul@gmail.com
Department: Institute of Sociology and Philosophy
University: Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Ethnicity , Political Parties , Election , Voting
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management , Social Classes and Social Movements


Institutional set up and party structure is often described as key variables that determine the voter's alignments. The religion, class, ethnicity, language and territory have been explained as a key determiner for voting pattern. (Alford 1967; Rose and Urwin 1969, 1970; Lijphart 1979, 1980; and Dix 1989). This class, religion, ethnic, linguistic and regional based variables not only affect the voter's alignments but also heavily influence to shape and reshape the institutional and party structure. Over the last three decades, however, electoral alignments have weakened, party strength has grown increasingly volatile, and party systems have become increasingly fragmented. These forms of fragile party system first appeared in western democracy and later repeated in the most new democracies such as in Nepal. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, Nepal started practicing the UK model democracy, a king as the head of the state and a prime minister the head of the government. The three consecutive parliamentary elections 1991, 1994 and 1999 established an electoral politics in Nepal establishing a two party system. The elections mostly remained exclusive for high caste Hindu elites. It could not ensure the participation of marginalized and minority groups into the mainstream politics. At the same time the major parliamentary parties namely Nepali congress and Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist and Leninist (UML)) could not maintain the stable government. The internal dispute within political parties, consistent party partition and failure of the political parties to address the basic interests of the people weakened strong party system and emerges a new trend of ethnic, religious and regional voter’s alignments. Moreover, switching electoral laws from FPTP to mix model (FPTP + PR) established a multi party system in Nepal after 2007. The dramatic emergence of many ethnic and regional parties however has increased people’s participation (voter’s turnout) but weakened strong party system increased voter’s volatility rate making no party domination in the parliament. This has resulted weak and coalition government and questioned in the sustainability of the government and democratic consolidation. The research tires to uncover – on the one hand ethnicity is very much manifested for the voter’s alignment but the institutional setup and political party’s framework equally influence voters’ to choose their candidates. The basic argument of this research is that, there are no other options against strong party system, inclusion of minority and marginalized groups into the political mainstream for the democratic consolidation. It is political parties that can make democracy inclusive and work better in any adverse political climate.