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November polls

Monday, October 23rd, 2017
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Map by: Sahina Shrestha

Baburam Bhattarai

Baburam Bhattarai (second from right) of Naya Shakti is backing NC’s Chin Kaji Shrestha (third from right) in Gorkha-1 in exchange of the ruling party’s support to his candidacy in Gorkha-2.

Nepal’s two major festivals are over, and it’s time to gear up for a third one: provincial and parliamentary elections.

On Sunday, just a day after the Tihar festival ended, all political parties registered their candidates for the polls’ first phase, which will be held in 37 constituencies of 32 districts on 27 November. Phase two will take place in 128 constituencies of 39 districts on 7 December.

These elections will mark the end of Nepal’s prolonged transition to a federal democratic republic, which was declared after the end of the Maoist war and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006.

After a decade, Nepal promulgated the Constitution in September 2015, institutionalising republicanism, federalism and secularism. Yet the Constitution’s future was still in doubt because of uncertainty over elections.

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Maoist (Centre)’s Narayan Kaji Shrestha (third from left) is competing with ex-Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai to win Gorkha-2, and the UML is backing him.

But the enthusiasm with which political parties have fielded candidates has removed any uncertainty over not just the first phase of polls, in remote hill and mountain districts, but also over the second phase in mid-hill and Tarai districts.

Altogether 320 candidates have entered the fray to win a seat in the federal Parliament. 482 candidates are contesting to become members of provincial councils.

With the RJPN and FSFN restricted to their Tarai constituencies, all eyes will be on the NC, UML and the Maoists during the first phase.

The NC is contesting elections largely alone, partnering with Naya Shakti and RPP in only two constituencies. The party has backed Naya Shakti’s Baburam Bhattarai in Gorkha-2 in exchange for his support to its candidate, Chin Kaji Shrestha, in Gorkha-1. Similarly, the NC has backed RPP’s Pashupati Shamsher Rana in Sindhupalchok-2 in exchange for his support to Mohan Bahadur Basnet in Sindhupalchok-1.

The UML-Maoist alliance has not left a seat for any fringe partner. The UML has fielded candidates in 21 constituencies, and is supporting the Maoists in 16 others.

The Left Alliance is hoping to win a majority, but that largely depends on how it will manage internal rifts.

For example, in single-constituency Jajarkot, the UML is backing Maoist (Centre)’s Shakti Basnet. But Govinda Bikram Shah, an influential UML leader in Jajarkot, has rebelled against the alliance and registered his independent candidacy. This could directly benefit the NC’s Rajib Bikram Shah, who is already popular among locals.

 

Om Astha Rai

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