Media Endorsement of Candidates

Run up to the general election 2079 has witnessed at least one new feature in electoral practice in Nepal. Public figures, including certain Media outfits, have endorsed particular candidates and issued appeal to the people to vote for them on November 20. It is not any peculiar trend in the world, especially western Democracy. A scroll of google scholar or JSTOR and the likes do reveal instances of candidates’ being endorsed by different organizations, Trade Unions, public personalities and media. The New York Times is widely known with its long history in terms of endorsing political leaders including Presidents.

However, in the Nepali context, no part of society has remained untouched by political activism, affiliation or influence in addition to certain ‘neutral’ elites, civil rights activists and public personalities conveying to the voters privately about greater suitability of some candidates. Thanks to the technology and the platform it has created, public personalities tweeting the list of candidates they want to see in parliament this time is unprecedented.

What’s more, some media outfits as well as YouTube Channel are not lagging behind. The social sites may have contributed enormously to educate or inform, its reach and open access has also visibly encouraged certain sections to disseminate hate and defamatory contents. This, in a way, proliferates the existing level of individual’s receptive ability towards different opinions.

But, at the state of prevalence of highly politicized society, ‘tokenized’ democracy and diminishing morality, the questions on sense and balance in endorsing can be outnumbered.

Kanak Mani Dikshit, a media personality and a social activist, was asking for outright rejection of Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ as the biggest culprit for things going wrong in the past 16 years. Similarly, Swarnim Wagle, former vice chair of Planning Commission, who failed to get ticket to contest the election from Nepali Congress endorsed candidates two candidates diametrically opposite in their political view; Gagan Thapa and Manushi Yami Bhattarai. Dr Gobinda K C, endorsed Pukar Bam, a Swatantra Party candidate in Kathmandu-1. Likewise, Baahrakhari Media endorsed 25 candidates for the House of Representatives. These appeals may or may not influence voters but it will have a cost. In the event of reversal, will that or should that also be seen as rejection of the appellants?

But, at the state of prevalence of highly politicized society, ‘tokenized’ democracy and diminishing morality, the questions on sense and balance in endorsing can be outnumbered. After all, in what sense would these candidates be accountable to the appellants in case of their victory! How is this public appeal different from the coalitions imposing other party candidates over their ‘party members’ taking away their right to vote freely? But in the days to come, the trend may get wider more as a fashion.

After all, electoral politics is less about being told who to vote and lot more about ideological convictions and freely judging a suitable candidate from many.