The main opposition UML’s leader K P Oli has been sworn in again as party chair after elections on Tuesday, and he in turn has sworn in 14 central members who are all his supporters.
Oli and his loyalists all got elected by a comfortable margin, or were unopposed in the lavish convention in Chitwan’s Sauraha where 2,152 delegates have been in attendance for the past five days.
Oli had tried to make the process of getting new party functionaries unanimous, but was challenged by a rival faction led by Bhim Rawal. In electronic balloting that started at 4AM on Tuesday, Oli got more than 95% of the votes. His loyalists Shankar Pokhrel (General Secretary), Ishwar Pokhrel, Pradeep Gyawali, Prithvi Subba Gurung and Bishnu Rimal (deputy General Secretaries) have either been voted in, or won uncontested.
Oli had beaten Madhav Kumar Nepal with a slim margin in the previous party convention in 2016. Nepal split off from the UML earlier this year and set up his own party, the Unified Socialists, which is part of the ruling 5-party coalition with the Nepali Congress.
Seven of the leaders elected as secretaries of the UML are also all Oli supporters, including Yogesh Bhattarai, Gokarna Bista, Chabilal Biswakarma, Parma Aryal, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Lekharaj Bhatta Raghubir Mahaseth. Rayamajhi and Bhatta are former Maoists.
Besides those two, former Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa who defected to the UML was elected vice-chair of the party, defeating Ghanshyam Bhusal. All three former Maoists were in Oli’s panel.
Meanwhile, four UML leaders who were not supported by Oli all lost — they are Bhim Rawal for chair, Ghanashyam Bhusal for vice chair, and Bhim Acharya and Tanka Karki as party secretaries.