Political parties in Nepal have started campaigning for the upcoming legislative elections, promising to bring peace, development, economic prosperity, and job creation.
The least developed Himalayan country is holding elections for its parliament and provincial assembly simultaneously in two phases on November 26 and December 7. Those elections will fully operationalize the federal system cemented by Nepal’s new constitution in 2015, thus marking the concluding chapter of the constitution implementation process that began two years ago.
Local level elections have already been concluded as per the provisions in the new constitution. During that round of voting, the Communist Party Nepal–Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), Nepali Congress, and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) emerged as the first, second, and third party, respectively.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
The upcoming election will elect Nepal’s federal parliament, which will elect a prime minister, president, and vice president for the country. Provincial assemblies for each of Nepal’s seven provinces will also be elected, which will then choose the chief ministers of the provinces.
Nepal has a parallel voting system, which sees different candidates selected in two ways. Under the proportional representation category, in which voters select a party, as many as 6,094 candidates are contesting the federal and provincial elections to be held on November 26 and December 7, according to the Election Commission’s publicly released list of PR candidates.
Under first-past-the-post category, in which voters choose a candidate, for the first phase of elections on November 26, 320 candidates of various political parties have filed nominations to contest 37 seats in the federal parliament, and 482 candidates have filed nominations for 74 seats in the provincial assemblies in 32 hilly and mountain districts.
The second phase of elections, to be held on December 7, will see elections take place in another 45 districts. A total of 4,482 candidates are in the fray under the first-past-the-post system for 128 federal and 256 provincial seats, the Election Commission (EC) said on Sunday, as it made public the final list and distributed election symbols to the parties.
While the parties are trying to draw voters’ support through political maneuvers, such as forming a “left alliance” and a “democratic alliance,” voters are more concerned about development. Essentially, Nepal’s people want jobs, health facilities, safe drinking water, education, and road networks, regardless of what party wins in the elections.
In the last three decades, the country has witnessed chronic political instability, including a 10-year violent insurgency, which badly damaged Nepal’s development and economy. Today, high-level unemployment persists. According to government data, over 2 million Nepalis were working abroad in 2011, as they could not find employment at home. Young people in particular often go abroad either to study or to work, as they see no future in their country.
As the election date draws closer, there is widespread hope that Nepal will finally embark on a journey of peace and economic development. This is probably the first election in Nepal after the restoration of democracy in 1990 to be largely dominated by social, economic, and development issues instead of political issues.
This time, the parties are trying to attract voters through their development agendas. People are hopeful that after the elections, parties will sideline partisan politics and focus on development as there is no major political agenda for parties to deal with right now.
In particular, Nepalis expect that the seven provincial governments, which will be formed after the elections, will tackle the problems and issues of rural areas. In crafting Nepal’s constitution, the parties opted for federalism, believing that a unitary and centralized government is a major obstacle in the country’s development process.
In the parliamentary and provincial assembly elections, there will be fierce competition between the “left alliance” of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) and the ruling Nepali Congress. In Province No. 2, which borders India, there will be a three-way competition among the NC, the left alliance, and Madhes-based parties, regional ethnic parties that have opposed the constitution since it was promulgated in 2015.
The common agenda of all the political parties is advancing economic prosperity and development. Nepal aims to be elevated from least developed country status to a developing country by 2022; the various parties have promised to achieve this goal. In their election manifestos, each party presented a plan for prosperity and development, including commitments to create jobs to tackle growing unemployment. Parties have also made promises to ensure social security and expand health and education facilities.
The Nepali Congress, the current ruling party, has promised to create half-a-million jobs within the next five years if a government is formed under its leadership. Meanwhile, the joint election manifesto of the left alliance, combining the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), focused on stability, good governance, and economic prosperity. The left alliance claims that under its government, per capita income will reach $5,000 within five years. The alliance also pledged to create a massive increase in jobs for young people.
A woman in the door of her home, decorated with the election symbol of the Maoist party, in the Bahajan district of Province No 7. Photo by Kamal Dev Bhattarai.
Nepal adopted a multi-party parliamentary system in 1990, but all the early parliaments were dissolved before they completed their five-year term, leading to political instability in the Himalayan nation. The parliamentary system adopted after 1990 also witnessed several malpractices, including horse-trading.
The last parliamentary election took place in 1999, but the parliament was dissolved in 2001 with the declaration of a state of emergency. For a long period, Nepal remained without any elected body, which sabotaged the governance system.
After the signing of a peace deal with the Maoists in 2006, the first Constituent Assembly (CA) election was held in 2008. A second CA was elected in 2013. The CA also served as a legislature during that time, but its main mandate was writing a new constitution for Nepal. In this sense, the upcoming parliamentary election is Nepal’s first in 17 years.
The first and second CAs included more than 30 parties, which was a main cause of government instability. However, the new constitution incorporated some provisions aimed at improving the drawbacks of parliamentary democracy. The number of parties represented in the parliament will thus decrease due to the new law. According to the Election Commission law, parties need to secure three percent of votes in the proportional representation (PR) category and one seat elected through first-past-the-post rules to sit in the federal parliament.
With the formation of new federal and provincial parliaments, there are expectations that Nepal will finally get a stable government that at least will last for at least five years, which will contribute to improving the country’s fragile economy. However, political analysts say that the current electoral system will never allow for such political stability. Over the last 30 years, not a single government has completed a five-year term. In fact, the average tenure of a government is one year.
Still, the upcoming elections have created optimism that Nepal is headed toward becoming a stable and prosperous country.
“What we want is houses, road networks, health and education facilities, and employment. We do not care about political ideologies,” Nanda Devi Bhual, 60, a Dalit woman from Baitadi District, in far-western Nepal, told The Diplomat.
“We will vote for those parties who help us, provide education for our children, and ensure education of our children,” she added. Due to a lack of employment, many younger members of her community are compelled to head to India to find jobs.
More than a dozen local citizens who spoke with The Diplomat in the far-western region, which is less developed than the rest of the country, said that roads, food security, health, safe drinking water, and education are their key priorities. There are several villages in western Nepal that are still untouched by roads and several rivers are without bridges.
Harka Bahadur Bohara, 61, of Syani Rural Municipality in Bajhang District bordering China, said that though parties have promised a lot in the past, they failed to deliver. “We have to walk three hours to get drinking water but there has not been any progress on building water projects,” he said. Bohara also said road connectivity is also a major concern for the district.
“In the past, mainly the Maoist party promised to address the issues faced by [our] marginalized community but they did nothing for us,” he added.
Kamal Dev Bhattarai is Kathmandu-based writer and journalist. He writes on geopolitical issues mainly focusing on South Asian region. He is closely following Nepal’s peace process, constitution drafting, and constitution implementation process.
The Meeting of the Central Committee (CC) of the Nepal Communist Party (Mashal) was held in the first week of April, 2013 to discuss about the political situation created after the formation of the government on non-party basis under the sitting Chief Justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court (SC), Khilraj Regmi. The Meeting adopted a political relation analyzing the political situation of the country.
It is known the world over that the Constitutional Assembly (CA) had not been able to draft the constitution during the period of two years fixed for the purpose. With the recommendation of the government, the period of the CA was again and again extended for two years more. But the constitution could not be made even after repeated extension of the period of CA. The major political parties in place of making the constitution preferred to extend the period of the CA again and again. But the process drew to a halt after the SC gave the verdict that the CA would not be allowed to extend its period in case it (CA) failed to make the constitution within the next six months. As the CA could not make the constitution in six months too, that was dissolved on June 28, 2012 without making the constitution. Then the government led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the vice-chairman of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), UMaoist in short here after, was turned into a caretaker one.
The Bhattarai Government declared election to be held on Jan. 20, 2013. But that could not take place because of political and technical reasons. Technically, there were many tasks to be completed such as amendments in the interim constitution and laws concerned to election at least three months before the election. But that could not be done. So the election could not be held in the time declared by the Bhattarai government. Politically almost all political parties or organizations took the stand that a caretaker government had no any right to conduct the election. To meet such a situation, the Bhattarai Government planned to extend its rule on the basis of issuing ordinances indefinitely. But such ordinances had to be issued by the President. Almost all opposition parties opposed any effort on the part of Bhattarai Government, a caretaker government, to make any recommendation for ordinances. In spite of such opposition from the opposition parties, the government sent series of recommendations to the office of the President. But the he refused to oblige the government by issuing the ordinances recommended by the government.
In spite of it that the CA had been dissolved without making the election, it was generally accepted view that the election of the CA was only a way out in the complicated political situation of the country. Both the political parties in the government and opposition held the view that a consensus government had to be formed to conduct the election of the CA by replacing the Bhattarai government. Several meetings of the major political parties of both sides, in the government and opposition, took place to solve the problem. But there was not consensus on the formation of the government.
The failure of the effort to form a consensus government was mainly because of the role of the UMaoist. Firstly, they repeatedly insisted on it that there should be consent on the subject matter of the constitution before the formation of such government. Secondly, the consensus government should be led by the UMaoist. Because of such a position on the part of UMaiost the consensus government could not be formed the result being the transfer of power to a non-party person in the last. In spite of the dissolution the CA Bhattarai claimed that, his government was legal one and he had right to remain in power until new government was elected after the election of the CA. The parties in opposition organized various struggles to oust the Bhattarai government. But the movement was not strong enough to topple the government.
It was in such a background that the major political parties, the UMaoist, CPN(UML), Nepali Congress (NC) and Tarai Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TMLP), a Madheshbadi regional party, decided unanimously to make the CJ the head of the executive with the responsibility of the election of the CA. After repeated request on the part of four political parties, CJ accepted to become prim-minister and take the responsibility of election of the CA.
The decision of the four parties to hand over the power to the CJ has been widely criticized in the country. NCP (Mashal) and its legal front, National People's Front (NPF) both issued statements opposing the formation of the government on non-party basis and both organized protest meetings and demonstrations countrywide just after the oath taking by the Regmi government. In the same time Newly Organized Maoist (NOMaoist here after in short) led by Mohan Baidhya Kiran, organized countrywide movement against the Regmi Government and in many places both of our participated in the protest movement jointly. Overwhelming central committee members of both UML and Nepal Congress raised voice against the shift of the power to CJ. It was because of such opposition of the members of the central committee of the their organizations that the leadership of both of the organizations that both UML and NC took the decision to install the CJ as the prim-minister without putting the matter to their central committees and taking any decision formally on the subject. The Bar Association, the largest and authentic organization of the lawyers in the country strongly protested the decision to make Regmi prime-minister. The National left-Democratic Forum (NLDF), popularity known as 17 Party Alliance, in which both NCP (Mashal) and NPF also are included, organized various protest programmers on the subject. NOMaoist had further rallied 33 small groups under its leadership in it's movement against the Regmi Government. Besides these organizations media of the whole country have vehemently criticized the formation of the government on non-party basis.
The initiative to install the CJ as the head of the government first of all was taken in the Seventh Congress of the UMaoist. Its chairman Prachand moved the motion for that and was carried out unanimously by the Congress. Later the proposal was put to the meeting of the four parties and was supported by all of them.
The formation of the government under the CJ is opposed mainly on this basis: Firstly, to make the sitting CJ head of the executive is against the well-accepted established principles of democratic system, such as the separation of powers of the various organs of the government, independency of the judiciary etc. Secondly, it threatens very existence of the multi party system not only for the time being, but also in the long run. The decision to make the CJ is basically a wrong. But our opposition to the Regmi government does not in any way mean that we should oppose the election of the CA too. We are convinced of it that the way out for the present complicated situation created by the dissolution of the CA and, danger posed to whole multiparty system by a non-party government is the election of the CA. So together with our opposition to a government we have decided to support the election of the CA and try our best to make mass pressure and organized movement to ensure the election of the CA. So political resolution adopted by our CC has given the slogan for the time being: "Struggle against non-party government and to ensure the election of the CA."
There is no any doubt on it that the UML, NC and many other political parties of the country are in favor of election of the CA. It is not difficult to conclude that both of these organizations, UML and NC, have supported the proposal of Prachanda to make the CJ prime-minister, firstly, to dislodge the Bhattarai government and, secondly, to ensure the election of the CA. They were afraid of it that the continuation of the coalition government of UMaoists and Madeshabadi and suspension of the election of the CA for indefinite time would lead the country to dictatorial rule of one or another kind. So, they agreed with the proposal of Prachand, i.e. to transfer power to CJ. That was a kind of compulsion on their part although their stand cannot be taken as correct one. However, there is not any doubt on it that they sincerely intend to make the election of the CA a success. But the same cannot be said about the intention of Prachand.
Prachand also wanted to remove Bhattarai from power with the disguised intention of install himself as prime-minister. So it is very possible that he has moved the proposal in his 7 Party Congress to make CJ a prime-minister as a trick to achieve his goal. It is worth mention here that formerly he had given suggestion to Bhattrai to resign from the prime-minister ship which the later had flatly denied. It was in such a background that he moved the proposal to make the CJ prime-minister. Now his plan to remove Bhattarai from the post of prime-minister has been fulfilled. But his plan to come to power himself is still to be fulfilled. In such a background the possibility of he conspiring to fail the election of CA cannot ruled out.
After split in their own organization and decline in their popularity in large scale in the country, UMaoists are not sure that they would emerge as a largest organization in the forth coming election of the CA as before, not to speak of gaining majority or two-third majority as they are claiming now in the course of their election campaign. So there is possibility that they would try to foil the election in one or another way. As a part of such a policy on their part they are raising the voice for the restoration of the dissolved CA. After the dissolution of the CA they had again and again raised voice for the restoration of the CA. As their organization was the largest organization in the dissolved CA, they are found think that as a leader of largest organization in the dissolved CA, Prachand would have right to claim the leadership of the government after the restoration of the CA.
So, considering upon the facts mentioned above there is ground to suspect that the UMaoist is not honest enough for the election of the CA. They are more inclined in the failure of the election of the CA than its success. So they are even now expressing the view that they will again come to power if the Regmi government fails in its mission, the election of the CA, till the end of this year or the beginning of the January 2014. The NOMaoists have openly declared that they would not allow the election to take place under Regmi government. Even before the installment of the Regmi government they had been voicing against the election of the CA or making of the democratic constitution. Soon after the dissolution of the CA they opposing the idea of the election of the CA had taken the stand to hold a round table conference to final solution to the complicated political situation of the country. They emphasize on it that the constitution or republic of bourgeoisie character would not solve the basic problems of the people. So their present policy to oppose the election of CA under Regmi government is part of their position they have been taking against the April Movement 2005 and its achievements Such an opposition on their part is based on the ideological ground that in place of the bourgeoisie reforms they are in favor of radical changes such as people’s constitution or people’s republic.
NOMaoist claim that they are not against the CA at all. But they are in favor of such a CA, witch would make a peoples constitution having anti-feudal, anti-imperialist character and which would solve the problems, of workers, peasants, women, schedule caste, tribal people etc. In principle, their position can not be regarded as wrong one. But such a constitution would not be possible within the limitation of April Movement of 2005 and the CA elected under not only Regmi government, but also under any government which would be formed within the existing semi feudal and semi-colonial political situation. The revolutionary changes, or making of the people’s constitution that the NOMaoist are advocating, are possible only after establishment of People’s Republic. But such a change, People’s Republic is possible only after new-democratic revolution succeeds, which is possible after a protracted people’s war succeeds. Strategically their stand is correct. But the question is: if it is correct tactically? They oppose what were achieved by democratic movement of April Movement of 2005 and which are to be consolidated at present, but plead which are out of the range of tactical line at present.
NOMaoist themselves put forth the view that the subjective condition is not ripe enough to start the people’s war, not to speak of making new democratic revolution a success in near future. So the revolutionary slogans they are putting forth are matters of future or strategic ones. The strategic slogans are being posed as tactical ones and that is the main defect on the part. In other words, tactically their slogans are only "leftist" phraseology. In practice the value of their political line is directed against the achievements of April movement, the election of the CA, the making of the democratic constitution and consolidating the republic. Such a policy of theirs, in spite of whether they have any such intention or not, will be not in the greater interest of revolution, but in the interests of retrogressive or royalist forces. That is why all the retrogressive forces of the country are found to praise and take them as real communists in the country.
It is a generally accepted principle of Marxism-Leninism that a Marxist-Leninist party while being strict on ideological and strategic questions, should always be prepared to adjust its tactics according to actual conditions. Nepal is a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country and the existing system should be replaced by higher one, new democratic system. We should organize a revolutionary movement to achieve that goal. But unlike that, our tactical policy should be directed to consolidate or defend the existing multi-party system. It is because of it that we are giving emphasis on the election of the CA, making of the democratic constitution and instituting the republic. Needless to say, these aspects, strategic and tactical ones, are quite opposite to each another. But in the same time they are interlinked. It is on this basis that for the time being our line of action has been decided as, firstly, to oppose the Regmi government built on non-party basis and, secondly, to struggle ensure the election of the CA.
As mentioned before, the CA was dissolved on June 28, without making the constitution. The fall of the CA to make the constitution was because of wrong policy and role of major political parties of which Maoist, which are divided into two now, and the Madhesbadi are mainly responsible. It is known fact that all political parties of the country expect our Party, NCP (Mashal) and our legal front, NPF are in favor of federalism. But they vastly differ on the question of its formation. Both sections of the Maoist are strongly in favor of the federal system based on the racial basis with right of self-determination and the right of separation. It is worth mentioning here that the leadership of the Communist Party of China had criticized Mohan Baidhya for their stand on building federalism on racist basis. After return from China NOMaoist has softened a little their stand to build federalism on racial basis, although hard core of their organization seem to take their racial stand as before although in modified form in some extent.
Parchand also was warned diplomatically in China that federalism might bring instability in the country. Later in his visit to India, he was advised by the ruling class to change the structure of federalism from racial to linguistic one. Then after they (UMaoists) have started to discuss within their organizations to change the formation of the federalism as they had put forth before. Madhesbadis have been demanding the federal system to be built on the basis of one or two states of whole Tarai/Madhes with the right of self-determination. However, on the other side UML and NC together with almost all other political parties or organizations supporting federalism differ with such conceptions of building federalism on racist or regionalist basis.
The difference among the parties or organizations supporting federalism reached the climax on the question of reconstruction of the state in general and building of Pradeshes (Zones) in particular. On May 15, 2012 four major political parties reached an agreement to build Pradeshes on multi-racial basis and to make constitution on this basis with the reservation of the Madhesbadis. But such a agreement of May 15 was vehemently opposed by the racist, Madhesbadi organizations, NGOs, INGOs and they organized country wide movement against that (May 15 agreement). They insisted on it that the Pradeshes should be built on single racial identity basis. A high level minister representing the EU imperialist countries came to Nepal. He met the leaders of various racist organizations or NGO and INGO and instigated them to continue their struggle against the agreement of May 15. The NOMaoist also fully expressed their solidarity with the movement against May 15 agreement and organized a large scale signature campaign of the members of the CA against the agreement. Such a countrywide opposition made Prachand to backtrack from the May 15 Agreement and take the side of racist, regionalist organizations and NGOS and INGOs openly. Such a U-turn on the part of UMaoist made the agreement of May 15 broken the result being the dissolution of the CA without making the constitution. So it a obvious, it was because of role of UMaoist and Madhesbati that the CA was dissolved. In other words, it was because of the sharp difference on the structure of the federal system among the parties supporting it (federal system) that the constitution could not be made.
The CJ government is given the responsibility of the election of the CA. But, Firstly, it is not certain if the election would taken place in time. Secondly, it is not certain that the CA would succeed to make the constitution even after the election of the CA. Thirdly; it is not certain that even if the constitution is made, it would be a democratic and republic one. That is why we are emphasizing to build mass pressure and organize countrywide movement organist movement to ensure the election of the CA. Even if the election of the CA takes any how considering their failure to make the constitution during last four years, it is difficult to be convinced of it that they would be able to make tha constitution even in coming days. The policies or issues which made the political parties in the first CA unable to make the constitution exist even today in more developed and sharp form. Similarly, considering upon the role of the racist and regionalist organizations and the support provide to them by the both sections of the Maoists, the possibility of they (racist and regionalist organizations) doing their best to disrupt the making of the republican and democratic constitution cannot be ruled out. In other words, they will do their best to influence the CA to make the constitution in their own lines i.e, in their racial and regionalist lines. In such a background our party for the time being gives emphasis on three points: firstly, to ensure the election of the constitution, secondly, to enable the CA to make the constitution; and thirdly, to make the constitution in democratic and republic lines.
In last a few days whole country is moved by Lokman Singh Karki issue. Under the absolute rule of the King he was chief secretary of the government. After the April Movement 2005 succeeded, the government had appointed a commission, known as Rayamajhi Commission (RC), to investigate into the activities of the personals of the government, both military and civil, responsible for suppression upon the people, misuse of power and suggest actions against them. The RC after extensive investigation for months prepared a report, which is known as RC Report. The report had recommended strict action against Karki also for his anti-people crimes, misuse of power and corruption as a chief secretary of the government. The report had recommended dismissing him from the post he held. It also was recommended that he would be unworthy for any government service in future. Bypassing all these recommendations of the RC High-level Political committee (HLPC), a political body consisting of four major parties made to assist the Regmi government, had decided to recommend to the government to make Karki the head of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse and Authority (CIAA), a high level constitutional body responsible to investigate into the misuse of the authority and corruption by the government persons of all level. In fact whole country stood against the recommendation of the HLPC to recommend Karki the head of the CIAA. Various political parties and organizations, students, lawyers organized country wide movement against that.
All four parties, UMaoist, UML, NC and Madhesbadi had unanimously recommended to make Karki the had of the CIAA. But the proposal with the support of Madhesbadi was moved by the UMaoist and was later supported by other two parties, UML and NC. Later the standing committee of the UML withdraws its support to the proposal. The president of the NC also has publicly made self-criticism that he had committed a mistake on the case of Karki. But both the Umaoist and Madhesbadi are firm to keep on Karki on the post. It is well known in the country that in fact it was Indian expansionism which has put forth the idea to make Karki head of the CIAA and both UMaoist and Madhesabadi are working in a planned way to carry out the plan of the Indian expansionism. In fact in their 7th congress they had formally given up the policy to oppose Indian expansionism and during his visit to India Prashanda has tried his best to convince Indian ruling class that all the elements having anti-Indian views had gone out of their organizations, UMaoist. So he was in a best position to serve Indian interest in Nepal. A well-known Indian writer, Anand Shworup Verma also in his article published recentally in a daily of Nepal, Kantipur (May 6, 2013) had written that Prachanda had given up the anti-Indian line. It is such a background that he had done his best to make Karki head of the CIAA.
Later the recommendation of the HLPC was approved by both council of ministers, Judiciary Council and finally that was endorsed by the President and issued ordinance appointing him Kamri as head of the CIAA. At the beginning he was a little hesitated to endorse the recommendations and he expressed such a view publicly too. But letter because of pressure of the UMaoist openly and that of Indian expansionism in disguised way look the decision in favour of Kari.
Data : May 18, 2013