Litmus test

  • Yet again, Nepalis are watching if PM Deuba will be able to hold scheduled elections

Oct 9, 2017-Since the surprise announcement of the three-party leftist electoral alliance, there are concerns in certain quarters over the fate of the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections. 

Already, the Election Commission (EC) has stated that the parties should keep away from activities that will affect the provincial and parliamentary elections--scheduled to be held together, in two phases, on November 26 and December 7.

Coming only weeks before the two elections, the announcement of the leftist alliance, which brings together two of the largest three national parties, seems to have pushed the Deuba government and the senior coalition party, the Nepali Congress, to the back foot. Terming the alliance as “undemocratic,” NC leaders have publicly voiced that the move could mark the beginning of authoritarianism in Nepal.     

On the day that CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli jubilantly announced the new electoral alliance, he went on to claim that the new left was expecting a lot more than a simple majority in the upcoming elections. The new alliance is expecting an overwhelming majority of over two-thirds, he grandly declared.

While the scale of the new electoral alliance does look huge, the Nepali Congress and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba would do well to keep a couple of lessons from history in mind. One, established by Nepal’s first elected PM, BP Koirala, in 1946, Nepali Congress has had a long history of struggle to establish democracy and the party continues to enjoy the support of a huge section of the Nepali population. Two, Deuba, not for the first time, stands at a historical crossroads where his commitment to periodic elections will yet again be tested. While he was the prime minister on two previous occasions, he was either unable or deemed incompetent to hold elections. We have consistently pointed out that this is yet another opportunity to set right his chequered legacy. 

While we do urge PM Deuba to demonstrate unwavering commitment to the scheduled elections, we also ask both UML and the Maoist Centre to continue extending its support to the Deuba government. That said, there is a lot of talk that Prime Minister Deuba himself would like to get a House majority without the support of the Maoists. The grand old party is said to be, for example, flirting with the idea that the powerful Home Ministry should not wrest outside NC control. Deuba could, the theory goes, try and oust Janardan Sharma, Maoist leader and current home minister, and add the portfolio to an incumbent NC minister. This would allow him to skirt the election code of conduct against cabinet expansion while securing the crucial portfolio ahead of polls.

To some measure, partisan calculations will always hold sway during elections in any democracy. But, holding the two scheduled elections will be in the interest of Nepali democracy in consolidating the federal democratic republic. If anything, the success of the three rounds of local level elections should only bolster our determination to complete this crucial component towards making the political transition. This, more than anything, will be Deuba’s long-term legacy. 

Published: 09-10-2017 07:41

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