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Political Polarization in Nepal

Issue 25, June 22, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

After the election for a Constituent Assembly (CA), the political scenario has drastically changed. New political forces emerged; the old forces shrunk to the sizes beyond the imagination of the so-called political leaders of those parties. Newly emerged political parties have been living in the old dream in the new changed political situation. They need to change their mindset to suit the changed political environment following the people’s mandate to meet their aspirations.

Leaders of both the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) did not expect the Nepalese voters would thrash them so badly for their past misdeeds. They had behaved irrationally being ready to do anything to grab the power in the past disregarding the people’s aspirations. They had thought voters were useful only when elections were held; thereafter they simply ignored them. So, millions of young voters were averse to them. The result was both the NC and CPN-UML weakened considerably.

New political forces such as Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) and Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) emerged as new forces. A single force of the CPN-Maoist was sufficient to counter the forces of the NC and CPN-UML. A Combined force of the CPN-Maoist and MPRF gives a simple majority in the 601-member CA. Neither the NC nor the CPN-UML can stand-alone against any other political forces. MPRF including other Madheshi political parties have the force equal to that of the NC or CPN-UML.

Both the NC and the CPN-UML take the CPN-Maoist as their common foe. To tackle with the common foe, both the NC and CPN-UML have been working together despite their rivalry and mistrust to each other. Each of them was ready to finish off other if its interest was served. This was nothing but the political opportunism.

After the election for a CA, the CPN-Maoist has been confronting with NC, CPN-UML, and MPRF destroying its own chance of early settlement of political issues, and then forming a new government. It went against the people’s mandate to cooperate with each other and then run the administration and write a new constitution. When it came to the minds of the CPN-Maoist leaders what they had been doing was wrong it had already past two months.

Leaders of the CPN-Maoist had felt that they were stronger than any other political party and the rein of the administration has come to their hands. To some extent, it was true but they forgot the provisions made in the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007. When they understood those provisions that have delimited their chance of gaining the power without the support of other political parties they found themselves messing up with.

Gradually, the CPN-Maoist has been giving in to the demands made by the NC and CPN-UML. The CPN-Maoist leaders accepted the provision for the president and vice president despite their previous stand on running the administration without amending the Interim Constitution. In fact, it was the people’s mandate given in the election for a CA held on April 10, 2008 to simply follow the Interim Constitution for two-year term of the CA. Later on, going against the people’s mandate, the Maoists even agreed to amend the Interim Constitution to replace the two-third majority required for forming or dissolving a government with a simple majority. The CPN-Maoist claimed both the positions of president and Prime Minister but under the pressure of the NC and CPN-UML, the CPN-Maoist gave up the position of the President and came up with the proposal for giving such an honorable position to a non-partisan person such as a civil society leader. The CPN-Maoist has been using the threat of quitting the coalition government and taking the issue to the people as leverage in negotiating with the NC and CPN-UML.

After the election for a CA, the first thing MPRF leader Yadav did was to talk about the need for amending the Interim Constitution for replacing the two-third majority required for forming and dissolving a government with a simple majority. Then, the NC leaders picked it up as their own precondition to work with the CPN-Maoist or precisely to let the CPN-Maoist to form a new government. CPN-UML leaders simply backed up the NC to tackle with the Maoists.

The CPN-UML did not put forward any tangible preconditions or demands but relentlessly engaged in criticizing the YCL activities. General Secretary Jahalanath Khanal as his predecessor has not been tired of condemning the YCL activities whenever they killed or thrashed out the CPN-UML activists. He would have done better job if he had engaged in taking legal actions against the criminal activities of the YCL cadres. His energy and time would have been put to good use.

The MPRF leaders have been watching the political development after the election for a CA and waiting for seizing any opportunity available. After the amendment to the Interim Constitution for replacing the two-third majority with a simple majority, the MPRF would be in a crucial position to play a political game in the environment in which no political party has gained a simple majority.

The MPRF would move to the third major party if not a first after the amendment to the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007. It could join either with the CPN-Maoist or the combined force of the NC and CPN-UML to garner a simple majority for forming a new government. So, it was not a surprise that MPRF leader Yadav had already claimed the positions of the President and Prime Minister for his party.

The CPN-Maoist or the combination of the NC and CPN-UML needed the support of the MPRF leaders for forming a new government. In other words, they needed to buy the MPRF for forming a new government at what price to the political parties or to the country they did not know, yet. The CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML created this political situation dishonoring the people’s mandate given in the election for a CA and ignoring the people’s aspiration for running the country with cooperation of all political parties.

The results of this political game would be known only in the general elections to be held after crafting a new constitution. However, the simple truth was that the political parties that would follow the people’s mandate and do everything possible to meet the people’s aspirations would do better than any other political parties. So, the political parties needed to do everything in view of the people’s mandate and aspirations rather than for immediate political and other gains they might think of. A one-thing political leader needed to take into consideration was that Nepalis had been weary of the political squabbles for personal gains of the leaders.

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