Major parties pick candidates as they brace for National Assembly electionsProspects grim for UML. Except in Province 1, ruling alliance controls enough weight to beat the main opposition party.
A day ahead of the nomination for the National Assembly elections, major political parties have decided their candidates.
The elections for 20 upper house members have been scheduled for January 26, and nominations must be filed by Tuesday, January 4.
They will replace the 20 National Assembly members who were elected in June 2018 and will retire on March 4 after completing their four-year terms.
Nominations for the 19 posts are scheduled in all seven provinces where there are a total of 2,225 voters who make up the electoral college.
The electoral college is made up of members of the provincial assembly and chairperson/mayor and vice-chairperson/deputy mayor of local units within the province. Each provincial assembly member's vote has a weight of 48 whereas each chairperson/mayor/vice-chairperson/deputy mayor's vote carries a weight of 18.
One member of the National Assembly will be nominated by the President Bidya Devi Bhandari later.
On Monday, the ruling coalition had divided seats for the National Assembly among the partners—six for the Congress, five each for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and CPN (Unified Socialist), two for the Janata Samajbadi Party and one for the Rastriya Janamorcha.
Given the changed political dynamics, the CPN-UML, which currently controls a majority of seats, is going to slide into minority in the upper house. Currently, the UML is in the opposition, even though it was the leading party after winning the 2017 elections in alliance with the Maoist Centre.
“Our own votes have been stolen by others,” said Bishnu Rimal, a UML leader. “The party split is going to take a heavy toll on our party.”
The UML was split in last August and one of its senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal formed the CPN (Unified Socialist).
“We are encircled by several parties so we are trying our best to get the best results. We can either win 5-7 seats or not at all,” Rimal, who is looking after the election process in the party, told the Post.
The UML is the single largest party in the House of Representatives.
The ruling alliance has decided to contest elections jointly.
A meeting of senior party leaders on Monday finalized the candidates for all 19 seats, according to the UML.
Except in Province 1, the ruling alliance, however, currently controls enough weight to beat the UML.
If the UML fails to retain its eight members, it will be reduced to 15 seats in the National Assembly. Since all the 20 members who will be elected from the January 24 elections will have a six-year term, there could be some political impacts in the aftermath of the general elections that are due next year.
According to the party, Guru Baral, Sumitra Bhandari and Sonam Gyalgen Sherpa are contesting from Province 1 and Asarfi Yadav and Bina Shah are contesting from Province 2. The party also decided to field Gopal Shakya and Nirkumari Kunwar Darlami from Bagmati, and Punya Prasad Poudel, Lila Pokhrel Thanet and Arjun Sunam from Gandaki.
From Lumbini, the UML has decided to field Ram Dayal Gupta, Bharati Khanal and Krishna Bahadur Sunar. Chudamani Sharma, Ganga Thapa Mahat and Padam Bahadur Maji will contest from Karnali and Dilliraj Bhatta, Santosh Kumari Sharma and Naresh Bishwakarma from Sudurpaschim, according to the party decision.
On Monday, the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Unified Socalist) also finalized their candidates.
A meeting of the Central Working Committee of the Nepali Congress picked its six candidates from six provinces, according to a statement issued by the party.
According to the party, Gopal Basnet will contest from Province 1, Krishna Prasad Poudel from Bagmati, Kamala Panta from Gandaki, Yubaraj Sharma from Lumbini, Durga Kumari Gurung from Karnali and Narayandutta Mishra from Sudurpaschim.
Out of the six candidates, four are from the establishment faction led by party president and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, while two are from the Shekhar Koirala faction.
Panta and Mishra are from the Koirala faction, a Nepali Congress leader said. According to the leader, candidates have been selected as per the strengths of factions in the party.
Panta lost the joint general secretary election during the 14th general convention of the party held last month. Mishra was defeated in the election for the party’s provincial chief in Sudurpaschim province by Birbahadur Balayar.
“Out of six seats, we are in a comfortable position to win five,” said Vice President of Nepali Congress Dhanraj Gurung, adding, “There is a slight shortage of votes in Province 1, otherwise, we will win all six seats.”
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), a key partner in the ruling alliance, has entrusted its newly elected chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to pick the candidates. Dahal was reelected as party chair on Monday.
“A Central Committee meeting took a decision to this effect,” said senior party leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
The CPN (Unified Socialist) has decided to field Jayanti Rai from Province 1 under the women’s quota and Goma Timilsina from the same cluster from Bagmati.
Similarly, Rajya Laxmi Gaire from Lumbini (woman), Udaya Bohora from Karnali (open) and Madan Kumari Shah (woman) will contest from Sudurpaschim.
Eight members from the CPN-UML, three each from the Maoist Centre, CPN (Unified Socialist) and from the Nepali Congress, and one from the Janata Samajbadi Party along with one nominated are completing their four-year terms as determined by the lottery in June 2018.
The coalition partners have not decided on the replacement of Ram Narayan Bidari, who is a nominated member to the National Assembly.
Nepal’s National Assembly is 59-member strong. Of them, 56 are elected and three are nominated. The members’ terms are determined by drawing lots—for two years, four years and six years.
Elections have already taken place for the 19 members who completed their two-year terms. After the election to replace 20 members who will retire on March 4, an election to replace the remaining 20 members, who will retire after their six-year terms, will be held after two years.
As per the current composition prepared in consultation with Election Commission officials, the UML has a total weight of 4,542 against the ruling alliance’s 4,464 in Province 1. Others control a weight of 342.
Similarly, in Province 2, the UML’s vote weight is 942, far less than 7,146 of the ruling alliance. Others combined have a weight of 408. In Bagmati, the alliance has 4,956 against UML’s 4,152 while other parties combined have a weight of 408. In Gandaki, the alliance’s weight is 2,988 against UML’s 2,394 and the other parties have 510. In Karnali, the alliance has a weight of 4,110 and UML has 3,324 while other parties combined have 408. In Sudurpaschim, the weight of the alliance is 3,755, UML has 1,788 and other parties have 132.
Loss of seats in the National Assembly will come as a major setback for the UML, which has by now lost governments in all the provinces.
UML’s position is slightly better in Province 1 with the party’s weight exceeding that of the ruling alliance by 78. But the race for National Assembly seats is still tight for the party as it is still not clear where the fringe parties’ votes would go.
Earlier on Monday, a meeting of the ruling coalition decided to split the seats for the National Assembly among them.
As per the decision, the Nepali Congress has six seats, five each for Maoist Centre and the CPN (Unified Socialist), two for the Janata Samajbadi Party and one seat for the Rastriya Janamorcha.
“We are trying our best to win all five seats,” said Jagannath Khatiwada, spokesperson for the CPN ( Unified Socialist). “There is a shortfall of some votes in Province 1 which we are trying to make up.”