Nepal's parties forge new pre-poll alliances
The once extreme left Maoists are allies of the centre-right Nepali Congress. The Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML) has suddenly found friends in the Hindu-right RPP and has partnered with the Madhes-based JSP. Top Maoist comrades who had fallen out big time, are back together.
Shifting alliances ahead of the November polls prove that ideology does not separate political parties anymore. It is all about finding a partnership that is most likely to propel them to power.
On Sunday, Nepal’s political leaders and election hopefuls registered their candidacies for the upcoming November provincial and federal parliament elections under the First Past The Post (FPTP) system with 165 Chief Electoral Officers across the country.
The deadline for registering candidates has now lapsed, and coalition and opposition parties, as well independent candidate collectives have completed complicated seat-sharing deals and finalised the lists of who they are fielding and where. On 19 September, political parties had presented their closed list of Proportional Representation (PR) candidates to the Election Commission.
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Nepal’s recent political history has been defined by petty party infighting, splits, unlikely mergers and lots of horse-trading. In the days leading up to the candidacy deadline, all eyes had been on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba-led five-party coalition and electoral alliance as the parties negotiated seat-sharing.
And while Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal — who political analysts and experts had noted would not hesitate to join hands with his nemesis KP Oli’s UML if offered a better deal and more seats in Parliament — ultimately upheld his commitment to the electoral alliance.
But not all parties of the coalition chose to continue the partnership. On Friday, the Madhes-based JSP (Janta Samajwadi Party) quit the five-party electoral partnership after failing to reach a seat sharing agreement, and instead switched alleigance to the UML instead.
Subsequently, Mahanta Thakur’s LSP (Loktantrik Samajwadi Party), the other Madhes-based party which split from JSP in 2021 and had been in talks to partner with the UML to contest the November election, formed a partnership with the Deuba-led electoral alliance.
After negotiations, coalition leader NC is to contest 89 parliamentary seats, the Maoists secured 45 seats, while Madhav Kumar Nepal’s CPN (Unified Socialists) will get to fight 19 seats and the smaller Rastriya Janamorcha Party 2 seats. The new ally LSP will contest 8 federal parliament seats.
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Meanwhile, the UML and JSP have reached an agreement for 35 and 17 federal parliament seats respectively.
On Sunday, top political leaders mobilised across the country to file candidacies. NC leader and Proportional Representation candidate Arzoo Deuba Rana filed Prime Minister Deuba’s candidacy on behalf of the NC chair from Dadeldhura.
CPN (Unified Socialists) chair Madhav Kumar Nepal registered his candidacy from Rautahat. LSP chair Mahanta Thakur has registered in Mahottari-3, while Rastriya Janamorcha Chair Chitra Bahadur KC will contest the election from Baglung-1.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was elected to the House of Representatives from Chitwan’s third constituency in 2017, registered his candidacy from Gorkha-2, with the endorsement of Baburam Bhattarai, who currently represents the constituency in parliament. On Monday, Baburam Bhattarai — whose new Nepal Samajwadi Party is contesting the upcoming elections under the Maoist Centre symbol— announced in a letter addressed to Gorkha voters that he would not be running for parliament this election.
The former Maoist ideologue on Sunday accompanied Dahal to file his candidacy in Gorkha. There is speculation this is under a deal where the Maoists will allow Bhattarai's daughter Manushi to win in a Kathmandu constituency.
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NC leader Shekhar Koirala, who has been at odds with party chair Deuba over his decisions to continue the electoral alliance and the parliamentary seat-sharing deal, is contesting the election from Morang-6. Gagan Thapa on the other hand is a Kathmandu-4 hopeful.
The list of FPTP candidates from NC also includes billionaire businessman and Nepal's richest man, Binod Chaudhary, who was previously elected to parliament under the PR system.
UML chair KP Oli registered his candidacy from Jhapa-4. Meanwhile, Kamal Thapa, chairman of the Hindu-rigt RPP (Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal) registered his candidacy from Makwanpur 1 with the UML’s support amid protests from the local chapter of the party. JSP chair Upendra Yadav is contesting the election from Saptari’s second constituency.
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Rabindra Mishra, who exited the Bibeksheel Sajha Party to join the Rajendra Lingden’s Rastriya Prajatantra Party as vice-president, will contest the election from Kathmandu-1. Lingden has registered his candidacy from Jhapa-3.
Former television presenter Rabi Lamichhane, who founded the Rastriya Swatantra Party after announcing his intention to run for Parliament, has registered his candidacy from Chitwan-2. Meanwhile, atmospheric scientist Arnico Panday, who had been included in the PR candidates list from the same party, withdrew from the election citing long-Covid complications.
Interestingly, Ek Nath Dhakal of the South Korean Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and leader of the Nepal Family Party who once served in K P Oli’s cabinet as Minister of Peace and Reconstruction has also got nominated for a PR slot. The Family Party is considered to be supported by South Korea’s Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon (the 'Moonies').
Binod Chaudhary who is standing from Nawalparasi-1, has oscillated back and forth between the NC and UML. At least seven other industrialists and billionaires have got tickets from the NC.
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Umesh Shrestha, education and hydropower tycoon and a close adviser to the Deubas, is standing from Chitwan -- his first time to contest elections -- although he was appointed Health Minister during the pandemic.
Medical education businessman Sunil Shrestha is contesting from Morang-3. Another hydropower investor, Dipak Khadka is standing from Sankhuwasabha.
Contractor Mohan Acharya from Rasuwa is also standing from his district. Another construction magnate Kancharam Tamang is standing from Ramechhap. Tourism entrepreneur Rajendra Bargain got the NC ticket for Gorkha.
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