INTERVIEW

The understanding is that if UML leader is Premier, MC leader is party chief, and vice versa

  • Interview: Barsaman Pun

Dec 18, 2017-

The left alliance has registered a historic win in the recently concluded federal parliament and provincial assembly elections. Maoist Centre (MC) leader and former finance minister Barsaman Pun, a close aide of MC Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, is expected to be a key player in the leftist alliance. Anil Giri and Tika R Pradhan discussed with Pun what factors contributed to the handsome win, the possibility of UML-MC unification, and Nepal’s future as a democratic federal republic.

How does the CPN (Maoist Centre) view the landslide win in the recent federal parliament and provincial assembly elections?

The fact that the left alliance achieved a majority in the recent elections has shown that the public are in agreement with our commitment to stability and prosperity and support this alliance.

Still, the left alliance did not do as well as expected in certain constituencies. We expected to register 142 wins in FPTP seats in the federal parliament. Electoral trends have shown that in the Madhes-based constituencies in particular, the left alliance was not viewed favourably and the Maoist Centre (MC) registered losses in four seats that we expected to win. In the hills, too, we lost two seats where we expected to register clear victories. The CPN-UML too has registered losses that were not expected; for example, in the case of Bam Dev Gautam. 

The MC has obtained 36 seats in the federal parliament through recent First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) elections. Was that possible without the support of the larger left alliance?

In the FPTP elections, the UML and the NC obtained 3.1 million votes each, while the MC obtained 1.3 million votes. So from a purely technical perspective, without the alliance, this would mean that the UML and the NC would acquire 50 to 60 seats each, while the MC would have been given 20 to 25 seats. However, because of the left alliance, the UML has won 80 seats, while the MC has won 36 seats in the FPTP. So the benefits for both parties are clear. 

Will the process of establishing a new government go alongside the unification of the left alliance? 

We proposed to form an alliance with the eventual aim of unifying the UML and the MC. Those parties and political leaders who have a common aim and vision for stability and prosperity for the country are slowly realising that forming an alliance is the way to go. And in the case of the UML and the MC, the two parties have come to the agreement that unification will help to achieve this vision. What’s more, the voting public has made it clear that they want unification. 

And in terms of the establishment of a new central government and provincial governments, it is our aim to keep true to our commitment to stability and prosperity. We campaigned as the left alliance, so we cannot now part ways as separate parties and demand a certain number of seats. There is no desire on the part of any constituents in the left alliance to break away at this juncture. Instead, we aim to establish a government that will function efficiently and effectively for the next five years, as a joint unit. 

What are the premises of your understanding behind the party unification?

The basic premise at this point is that if a leader from the MC is prime minister, then a leader from the UML will be party chief, and vice versa. It is obvious that the two parties come from different ideological backgrounds but we hope that we will eventually form a uniform whole in the quest to realising country-wide stability and prosperity.

Many say KP Oli is all set to be both the prime minister and the party chief. What would this mean for the unification?

Millions of voters have shown their support for party unification and for stability and prosperity. If any one does anything that is detrimental to these goals, then they 

will be creating serious roadblocks to the development of the state and 

will also reverse the recent strides that were taken in forming an alliance. Partisan greed should not come in the way, on the part of either the UML or the MC, when it comes to issues of distribution various important positions.

This alliance has come along after a long, conflict-filled period of 20 years; it is a great step.  If, however, the UML push for more than was agreed upon, and if they go against the spirit under which the alliance was formed, the MC has other alternatives to pursue. The NC has approached the MC and has proposed the possibility of the MC leaving the left alliance and forming another agreement with the democratic forces. However, the MC has no wish to break with the leftist alliance at the current juncture. 

The UML and MC agreed to share seats in a 60:40 ratio respectively in the FPTP race. However, now there are talks about splitting seats in a 70 (UML):30 (MC) ratio, on the basis of the number of seats won in the elections. Is this a possibility?

The 80 seats won by the UML and the 36 seats won by the MC belong to the left alliance as a whole. The seats may have been won under separate party symbols, but they belong to the alliance. The ratio of 60:40 was decided on the basis of the size of the two parties; the UML is bigger than the MC and this is what became the basis of the ratio. The leaders may have discussions about the ratio, and the choice of prime minister and party chief, but the main thing is that these leaders and the parties will be focused on moving forward towards unification. 

There are unestablished claims that the Chinese influence led the formation of the left alliance and that Nepal could be headed towards a communist regime that is at odds with the democratic constitutional mandates. How grounded are these apprehensions?

I can conclusively state that this government will be pro-Nepali. We will not be swayed by foreign powers and will always work for the benefit of the people. We understand that Nepal has to play a balancing game between the regional powers, India and China, but ultimately, we will be pro-people and pro-Nepali. Furthermore, the rise of a hard-core communist regime is not a possibility. These elections were held under constitutionally stipulated guidelines and this government will be run on the basis of constitutional mandates as a democratic federal republic. 

Is your alliance indeed a leftist alliance, or a democratic alliance, as claimed by the UML leader KP Oli?

Our alliance is a leftist alliance that carries a democratic agenda. While we will uphold the tenets of democracy and its ideals, we will also endorse certain leftist ideologies and agendas and apply them in areas which are beneficial for Nepal. Our main goal is to seek the approval of citizens and to uphold the constitution, rather than to function under the labels of leftist or democrat. 

What are your views on the Single-Transferable Vote (STV) system? There has been a lot of controversy over the delay in the formation of the National Assembly and hence, the government. 

All views and concerns of all sectors of the population have to be represented in the National Assembly. People are saying that the STV system is not technically possible because we have three levels of government. But I believe that if it can be instituted, then the system could prove beneficial because it will ensure that all sectors are represented and make for a more inclusive National Assembly. 

Published: 18-12-2017 08:35

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