A new trend in political campaigning hits Nepal

(dpa) - On the last day of campaigning allowed, Nepal's political parties have gone all out in a new tactic - advertising in newspapers, on radio and television and on the internet.

A sharp departure from traditional door-to-door campaigning and political gatherings, Monday's newspapers were inundated with political party ads trying to sway voters ahead of Thursday's polls for a constitutional assembly.

One major broadsheet daily carried only political messages on its front page.

"The trend of using mass media for election campaign is new to Nepal," media analyst Purusottam Kharel said. "This is only the beginning and we can expect most parties adopting this method during the next election."

Kharel believes that the parties have turned to using the media to get the message out partly due to the dangers of door-to-door election campaigning which have prevented Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) from reaching their target groups.

"The two parties have had to cancel many of their programmes due to Maoist obstacles or attacks on candidates and party workers in the run-up to the elections and the media campaign appears to be an attempt to bypass those hurdles," Kharel said

Nepal's moderate CPN-UML - which paid for spots in all private newspapers, on television and radio - says the media campaigns are designed to appeal to voters who have stayed loyal to the party over the years and for undecided voters they have not been able to reach.

"In this new age of information, radio, television and the internet are supreme," chief of CPN-UML's Central Publicity Committee Shankhar Pokharel said. "We are trying to reach out to both urban and rural voters with our media campaign."

He says he is overwhelmed by the response he has received so far.

The Maoists, who are contesting the elections for the first time since launching their communist insurgency in 1997 are reminding voters of the "people's war" in their political ads.

"People of Nepal who have woken up the entire world by their revolution and given birth to a republic must now unite on a great campaign to create a New Nepal," said the advertisement with a picture of an elderly woman carrying the party flag with the younger generation in the background symbolising the change.

Even the pro-royalist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal has joined the media campaign with its message "democracy with the king and Hindu identity" appearing in most major dailies in Kathmandu.

The party, which says it favours constitutional monarchy and return of Hinduism as the official state religion, is appealing to traditional Nepali Congress voters who still want Nepal to retain its monarchy.

For many in Kathmandu the media advertisement have been well-received as a way of getting the party's platforms out.

"I am glad Rashtriya Prajatantra Party has taken out its campaign," Poshan Raut a shop owner in Kathmandu said.

"At least the people now know that it is standing for the constitutional monarchy and people could vote for them," said Raut, who favours referendum on the issue of monarchy.

Narahari Acharya, a central member of the Nepali Congress, has taken his campaigning to another level by creating a website designed to appeal to younger Nepalese used to surfing the net.

"Establish a system which readily accepts capable youths as leaders in national politics," Acharya says in his website message.

"Nepalese youths have the energy and the zeal. If that zeal and energy is tapped, it will not take long to convert Nepal into a prosperous nation," Acharya says.

With just days to go, it still remains unclear which party will win a majority of the seats to the Constituent Assembly, which will rewrite the constitution and decide key issues for Nepal's future political system.

But change seems to be the theme of this election and no matter who wins the most number of votes, political campaigning in Nepal will never be the same.

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