With two weeks for nomination deadline, parties just start discussions on candidates for the by-electionOne federal seat and three provincial assembly seats will be up for grabs during the November 30 polls.
With just 14 days left to nominate candidates for the upcoming by-elections, the major political parties continue to reel from scandals involving their lawmakers. The November 30 elections are for one federal seat and three seats on the provincial assemblies.
While the rape allegations against former speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara have tainted the ruling Nepal Communist Party, the mass murder case against Nepali Congress leader Mohammad Aftab Alam seems to have placed both parties on equal footing, said Jhalak Subedi, a political commentator.
“Both the major parties have gone through some scandals that could affect their performance in the by-elections but Nepali voters tend to forget things quickly,” said Subedi. “So it’s difficult to predict how they might fare in the November 30 polls.”
So far, only the Sajha Party has announced its candidate, Rajani KC, to contest the by-polls from Kaski-2, the federal parliament seat left vacant after former Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari’s tragic death in a helicopter crash at Taplejung. The upcoming elections will be a kind of referendum on the traditional parties, according to the Sajha Party, which has positioned itself as an alternative political force.
Given the kinds of scandals that have rocked the two major parties—ruling Nepal Communist Party and opposition Nepali Congress—the Sajha Party may just be right. This is perhaps why a number of parties have formed electoral alliances.
For the Baglung-2 provincial assembly seat, the ruling party will support the Rastriya Janamorcha’s candidate while the Janamorcha will support the ruling party’s candidates in all other places.
According to Janamorcha leaders, the local-level party committee has shortlisted three names—Dharma Bahadur Kunwar, Sunmaya Gharti and Khim Bikram Shahi—for the party to choose from. Gharti is the spouse of the late Tek Bahadur Gharti, who was the elected Provincial Assembly member before he died on December 14 last year due to liver disease. During the 2017 elections, the Maoist-UML coalition had supported Gharti.
“Baglung-2 was allocated for the Janamorcha during the last election and that coalition will continue this time as well,” said Surya Thapa, deputy chief of the ruling party’s Publicity Department. “At all other places, Janamorcha will support Nepal Communist Party candidates.”
The primary opposition Nepali Congress also started discussions on potential candidates at its central working committee meeting that began on Thursday.
“We will form a mechanism to take necessary decisions regarding the by-elections today,” said Purna Bahadur Khadka, joint general secretary of the Congress.
Citing the strength of the ruling Nepal Communist Party—formed after the merger of two largest communist parties of the country—which has an almost two-thirds majority in the federal parliament and six of the seven provinces, the Congress could go for a democratic alliance with the Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janata Party, said party leaders.
“We have not started discussions on forming a democratic alliance yet but I cannot deny its possibility,” said Bishwo Prakash Sharma, party spokesperson. “Everything will be decided through the meeting of the central working committee.”
Leaders of Rastriya Janata Party and Samajbadi Party are also hopeful for an electoral alliance with the Nepali Congress.
“Like during the previous polls, we will certainly go for an electoral alliance with the Samajbadi Party but this time, the Nepali Congress could also join for a democratic alliance,” said Keshav Jha, Janata Party general secretary. “Both Samajbadi Party and Nepali Congress have started internal discussions and the possibilities of an alliance will be clearer in a few days.”
The Janata Party has asked the party’s local committees to recommend a maximum of three names for the by-elections by October 30, said Jha.
However, Rajendra Shrestha, co-chair of the Samajbadi Party, said that although his party is preparing to contest the by-elections alone, it is not opposed to a possible electoral alliance.
The by-elections for 52 positions, including a seat in the House of Representatives, are set to be held on November 30. Polls will also be held to elect three provincial assembly members: one mayor, three rural municipality chairpersons, one rural municipality vice-chair and 43 ward chairs. The election commission has already published a time table for the polls, according to which the parties must nominate their candidates for the federal and provincial assemblies by November 7. While all posts are equally important for the parties, the one position all will be vying for is Kaski-2 Constituency.