Ruling parties to form panel for working out local polls seat-sharingWhile leaders of CPN (Maoist Centre) and CPN (Unified Socialist) are keen on electoral alliance, second-rung leaders of Nepali Congress say the idea goes against their party statute.
The ruling alliance is preparing to form a task force in an attempt to work out a formula on how to forge an electoral alliance among the ruling partners.
After Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba expressed his desire to forge an alliance with his coalition partners for the upcoming local, provincial and federal elections, the alliance leaders are working to form a taskforce to find out a formula on seat-sharing arrangements.
Multiple leaders within the alliance told the Post that the taskforce will be formed as soon as the partners complete their intra-party assessments.
Deuba, also the president of Nepali Congress, on Thursday announced that the ruling partners will be contesting all three elections as an alliance. However, some Congress leaders have opposed Deuba’s views saying that the idea of electoral alliance goes against the party’s statute.
But Deuba has already tasked party’s vice president Purna Bahadur Khadka and Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand with doing preliminary homework on how to forge an alliance with other ruling partners—CPN (Maoist Centre), CPN (Unified Socialist) and Janata Samajbadi Party. There is no clarity on whether the alliance would partner in the elections with the Janamorcha Nepal, which pulled out of the coalition after the US government’s MCC Compact was ratified by Parliament.
But some Congress leaders have been openly voicing their concerns against forging an electoral alliance.
“Our party statute clearly states that the local party committees decide the party’s candidates for local elections, so it would not be a right thing to pick candidates from the centre,” party leader Minendra Rijal said.
As per the charter, the party’s ward-level tickets are decided by its 165 regional committees. Its 77 district committees decide on the candidates for chair and vice-chair of rural municipalities, the seven provincial committees decide candidates for municipalities, and the candidates for metropolitan and sub-metropolitan cities are picked by the party's parliamentary board.
“So the centre does not have the right to decide candidates for local level elections,” said Rijal.
The government has already scheduled local level elections for May 13 and the Nepali Congress is set to kick off its month-long campaign for local elections from March 13.
While speaking at a function in Birgunj on Thursday, Deuba said that no party can win a majority in the current situation so discussions are underway with the coalition partners on a possible electoral alliance.
“Under the current circumstances, no party can form a majority government so an electoral alliance is necessary. What was our situation when we fought the election alone yesterday?” said Deuba, adding, “If the coalition fights the elections jointly, then we can form governments at the local, provincial and federal levels.”
Meanwhile, a member of the private secretariat of Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal said top leaders of the ruling coalition have agreed to form task forces at the federal, provincial and local levels and the work will take some time to complete.
“Once we assess our strengths and weaknesses at the local-level constituencies, a task force will be formed and seats will be shared among the coalition partners to ensure that the alliance candidates emerge victorious.”
Since the ruling coalition partners—CPN (Maoist Centre), CPN (Unified Socialist) and the Janata Samajbadi Party—lent their crucial support to the Congress-led government to ratify the MCC compact from Parliament last month, Deuba is under pressure to continue the alliance through the elections, according to a Nepali Congress Central Committee member.
“The CPN-UML has better organisation across the country, so our coalition partners fear that fighting the elections single-handedly will only benefit the UML,” said the Congress leader.
Maoist chair Dahal and CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Nepal have already forwarded their joint proposal to Deuba to form an alliance for the local elections.
According to the joint proposal, in the local units currently held by the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre, the two parties will field their own candidates, according to the Congress leader. And in the local units held by the CPN-UML, the alliance will field their strongest candidates for mayors and chairs to ensure victory. Similarly, tickets for deputy mayor and vice chair positions will be allocated to the other parties in the alliance with higher possibility of winning the elections, the leader said.
If this is agreed then the Nepali Congress will field its candidates in fifty percent of the local government seats and the remaining will be allotted to the two communist parties and the Janata Samajbadi Party. Dahal and Nepal have also proposed that the alliance should fight the provincial and the federal elections as a joint force.
“If Congress refused to the proposal then the three other parties in the alliance can forge an alliance for the elections,” Gangalal Tuladhar, a central committee member of the Unified Socialist, said.
“Some second rung leaders of the Nepali Congress are making populist remarks and opposing electoral alliance. But top leaders are in favour of electoral partnerships,” said Tuladhar.
But Spokesperson of the Unified Socalist Jagannath Khatiwada said that some kind of coordinating committee would be formed among the ruling alliance to work out seat-sharing arrangements.
A central committee meeting of the CPN (Unified Socialist) on Thursday asked the party’s leaders and supporters to help elect alliance candidates.
Meanwhile, Nepali Congress leaders said their one month-long election campaign will give a clear picture about the strength of the party and the alliance. “After we receive reports from the local level, we will come up with a decision. We are not in a hurry,” the Central Committee member said, adding, “Since the prime minister is the leader of the ruling alliance, how can he say ‘no’ to the alliance partners?”
But Congress General Secretary Bishwa Prakash Sharma said picking local level candidates by the centre would not be a democratic thing to do.
“We will wait until we receive reports from districts. We will assess our strength and make a decision, but still the party’s central leadership deciding on electoral alliance at the local level would not be democratic and practical thing to do,” said Sharma.