Congress decides to fight upcoming elections under allianceSeat-sharing with coalition partners set to be tough as it wants the lion’s share.
The ruling Nepali Congress on Monday officially decided to fight the upcoming provincial and federal elections in alliance with existing members of the ruling coalition.
The central working committee of the party made the decision.
The party, however, has yet to work out how to share electoral constituencies among the coalition partners.
A proposal endorsed by the meeting said the party will start negotiations on seat-sharing with the other four members of the ruling coalition.
The meeting lauded the May 13 local election results as satisfactory and said the party should aim to win majority seats in the upcoming elections.
But party leaders also stressed the need for finding a common ground among coalition partners on crucial issues including how to implement the constitution, conduct international relations, and bring about political and economic transformation in the country.
The meeting held over a week discussed and deliberated on various contemporary issues, but the focus was on how to negotiate a profitable electoral alliance with the coalition members.
There are a total of 165 first-past-the-post constituencies for federal parliament and 330 FPTP seats for provincial assemblies and the elections are likely to be held in November.
Earlier this month, the Elections Commission recommended holding the provincial and federal elections simultaneously on November 18, but the government has yet to take a decision on the date.
It has been learnt that some leaders of the ruling coalition have proposed deferring the election to February next year.
“There have been suggestions to postpone the elections, but Prime Minister Deuba during our meeting this morning said he is committed to holding the elections on November 18 as recommended by the commission,” said party general secretary Gagan Thapa.
“Now that the party has decided to forge an electoral alliance, the real negotiations are set to begin and they are going to be tough.”
With regard to finding common grounds on several key issues, Deuba was reportedly non-committal, but Thapa and some other leaders had insisted on spelling out the issues in the proposal, saying the party should be answerable to the public on the key issues facing the nation.
“Alliance partners should forge a common position on some pressing issues like protecting the constitution, strengthening the democracy, conducting foreign relations and uplifting the economy in the next five years. Failure to spell out such issues would cost us public trust,” said Thapa.
The party has also ruled out sharing seats on the basis of the results of the 2017 federal and provincial elections, particularly with the Maoist Centre and CPN ( Unified Socialist).
In 2017, the Maoist Centre and existing Unified Socialist contested the elections under the banner of the Nepal Communist Party. The Maoist Centre had won 36 seats, Nepali Congress 23, Janata Samajbadi Party led by Upendra Yadav 10, and the Naya Shakti Party of Baburam Bhattarai and Janamorcha Nepal had won one seat each, in the first-past-the-post elections.
“If we agree to seat-sharing arrangements on the basis of the last elections, the Congress will have to give up over 20-25 seats which we do not want. So our bottom line should be the recent results of the local election results,” said another central committee member. “We are of the view that there should be a 60:40 ratio in seat-sharing for both federal and provincial elections. The CPN-UML, the largest party in 2017 elections, had won 80 percent under the first-past-the-post system and 13 out of them are now with the CPN (Unified Socialist).”
Another Congress leader said the party wants to keep 100 FPTP seats for itself and cede the remaining 65 seats to be divided among the four coalition partners.
Once the Maoist Centre and others come up with their respective positions, the crucial negotiations will begin, the leader said.
Congress emerged as the largest party in the May 13 local elections, so its goal is to secure a clear majority for the party in the upcoming elections by protecting the constitution and strengthening democracy, reads the party’s decision made on Monday.
One the key ruling party, the CPN (Maoist Centre) is for finalising a seat-sharing deal before the government announces the date for elections.
During the recently concluded central committee meeting of the party, Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had said that the seat-sharing issue should be settled before mid August and that the party will stake claim to seats on the basis of the votes and seats won in the recent local elections and the 2017 federal and provincial elections.
Maoist leader Dev Gurung, meanwhile, said his party will start exploring better electoral deals if it is unable to strike a good deal with the Congress and other coalition partners.
“If the Nepali Congress has made a position then we will also have to make our position clear,” Gurung added.
In his interview with the Post and its sister publication Kantipur that was published on Monday, Maoist chair Dahal said that there are no differences among the coalition partners and their partnership will continue in the federal and provincial elections despite some bittersweet experience in the May local elections.
“The deck is now clear for the party leadership to enter seat-sharing talks with coalition partners,” an office bearer of the party said. “But the negotiations between the Congress and the Maoist Centre are going to be tough.”
A Unified Socialist leader, meanwhile, said no party, whether it is the Congress or the UML, is certain about winning the elections without partnering with others.
“The leaders know there is mass frustration against the mainstream parties and this makes everyone vulnerable to electoral loss. Neither the Congress or the UML or the Maoist Centre feel secure. So electoral alliances are necessary,” the Unified Socialist leader said.
Meanwhile, the Nepali Congress meeting, besides deciding to forge electoral alliances among the coalition partners, took 11 other decisions including making suggestions to Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also the president of the party.
The party has urged the government to respect the letter and spirit of the constitution while amending the Act related to the Constitutional Council.