What’s in store for the five-party alliance after local vote results?With increased bargaining power, the Maoists may want to continue partnership, but CPN (Unified Socialist) and Janata Samajbadi Party look unhappy.
When the five-party ruling coalition was in deep engagements to form an electoral alliance, the goal was not only the May 13 elections. The five forces had their eyes set on general and provincial elections as well, which are due later this year. Rastriya Janamorcha, the fifth party in the coalition, was just tagging along. Anyway it is an anti-federalist force.
The four parties—the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre), the Janata Samajbadi Party and the CPN (Unified Socialist)—however, were guided by their own interests.
Congress wanted to pre-empt the Maoist Centre’s possible alliance with the CPN-UML. The Maoist Centre wanted to maintain its political relevance. The CPN (Unified Socialist) lacked a popular base for elections, as it was formed only in August last year after splitting from the UML. The Janata Samajbadi leaders said they did better where they fielded candidates individually but lost most of the places where they forged alliances.
Local election results show the Congress and the Maoist Centre are the biggest gainers. The Maoist Centre even managed to establish itself as a decisive force extricating itself from the risk of being consigned to oblivion.
The Unified Socialist has been by and large decimated, with just 17 wins and two leading. The alliance made no sense for the Janata Samajbadi.
Now these two parties have started complaining against the alliance, while the Maoist Centre is feeling smug.
“Coalition didn’t help us increase our seats as expected,” said Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Janata Samajbadi. “Wherever we contested alone we fared better but lost in most of the places where we had forged alliances.”
Yadav, however, said the results of a single election may not adversely affect the existing alliance.
“But mistakes should be corrected as most of the Congress votes didn’t transfer to other parties and it affected our results,” he told the Post. “We will analyse the problems while reviewing the local-level polls after all the results are out.”
According to Yadav, though chances of the Maoist Centre joining hands with the UML are slim, nothing is impossible in politics.
“I don’t think they will come together immediately,” he said.
Four days after the elections, on May 17, CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Nepal had publicly expressed his dissatisfaction over his party’s poor show in the elections. Addressing a function, Nepal said his party did not get the support expected of the coalition partners in the elections.
The party’s general secretary, Beduram Bhusal, said his party has sought reports from all the local committees of the party within next Sunday to review the election results. “Things didn't turn out as we had expected but we will review the results and then make further strategies for the party,” Bhusal told the Post. “That would also include the party’s stance about the existing ruling coalition.”
While addressing an election rally in Bharatpur in the lead up to the elections, Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had proclaimed to continue the alliance for another 15-20 years.
The Maoist party may not have improved its wins significantly, but its bargaining power has certainly increased.
Within Dahal’s party also, there is some dissatisfaction that the party members and supporters voted for the Congress but there was no reciprocity from the side of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s party.
“In some places, the alliance seemed to have worked but in a majority of places we did not get votes from the Congress,” said Haribol Gajurel, a central member of the party who is close to party chair Dahal. “Since we all are busy with the polls we have not got the time to discuss and evaluate our performance.”
Most of the Maoist leaders have said their party managed to increase only a handful of local units but if the votes had been properly transferred the same way they did to ensure Congress candidates’ wins, their party would have won around 200 local units.
As of Sunday, Maoist Centre has won 120 local units and is leading in two units. This is slightly better than the last time when they won 106 units.
“Actually an alliance with the Congress is very difficult as its voters don’t vote on our symbol unlike the UML’s voters,” said Gajurel. “But the alliance would depend on how other partners work with us.”
Dahal, however, has commented that the electoral alliance has by and large been successful and now the coalition would continue until the upcoming federal and provincial polls, and that the coalition was formed with an intention to end political instability and take initiatives for development.
“Basically the electoral alliance has been successful,” Dahal said while addressing the leaders of the Congress and Maoist Centre of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality at his Khumaltar-based residence on Saturday morning. “Actually the coalition was formed to ensure political stability and give impetus to development.”
In Madhyapur Thimi Municipality of Bhaktapur, the alliance has won against the UML with Congress winning mayoral candidate and Maoist Centre deputy mayor.
Given the unstable nature of party chair Dahal, it is, however, not easy to predict he will stick to the alliance with the Congress as most of his party leaders feel comfortable with a left alliance, observers say.
“There are rumours that Oli has sent leaders to meet our chairman but that is not true. We are not in touch with anyone from Balkot,” said Ramesh Malla, chief personal secretary to Dahal. “It’s not necessary for us to talk with the UML.”
However, some Maoist Centre leaders have said the party could think of holding discussions with the UML only if Oli admits his past mistakes and promises not to repeat such mistakes in future.
Before the 2017 federal and provincial polls, Dahal had bargained with both the Congress and the UML, but he chose the latter citing a higher possibility of vote transfer from the UML to the Maoist party and a better electoral deal. Besides, his intention was also to become the chair of the largest communist force.
Some political analysts have ruled out a breakdown of the existing ruling coalition until the next polls because Dahal seems to have promised Deuba that he would stick to the coalition.
“I think this alliance will continue until the upcoming federal and provincial polls even if the UML wishes to break the alliance,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst. “Given the bitterness in the relations between Dahal and Oli, the Maoists could turn down Oli’s proposal to cut the UML to size.”
Some UML leaders including Ghanashyam Bhusal said his party has only two options ahead—either go for a left alliance or face a disaster.
“I have been telling the party that the UML should take initiatives for a left alliance, to no avail,” Bhusal told the Post. “It’s not to appease Dahal but for the sake of UML’s future that our leaders should realise the mistake of dissolving the House.”