Oli reaches out to Dahal as jockeying begins to cobble together a coalitionSome Maoist leaders say their alliance with Congress was counterproductive, and the party should have a rethink.
CPN-UML chair and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli on Thursday telephoned CPN (Maoist Centre) chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal and proposed that they work together.
Oli, who is in Jhapa, called up Dahal on Thursday and they talked for over 15 minutes, said an aide to Dahal.
Dahal reportedly told Oli to wait until the final election results are out. Oli also rang up Prime Minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and congratulated him on the latter’s win.
Dahal’s personal assistant Ramesh Malla confirmed the phone conversation between Oli and Dahal. Malla said Dahal spoke to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba as well. Oli also spoke with Deuba.
Oli and Dahal congratulated each other on their election victories and briefly discussed emerging election results, according to two leaders familiar with the talks between Oli and Dahal.
According to Malla, Oli suggested that the two top leaders forget their past bitterness and forge a new partnership to lead the country.
“As we are key members of the ruling coalition, we will discuss the election results and future course among ourselves first and only then decide which way to go,” a Maoist leader said.
A UML leader, who is in regular communication with the second-rung leaders of the Maoist Centre, said his party is open to negotiations with everyone. “But our first priority would be to form a government without the Nepali Congress.”
“The second-rung leaders of the Maoist Centre are shocked by the election results, especially as their electoral partnership with the Nepali Congress did not favour them,” the UML leader said.
The Maoist Centre that had won the 36 parliamentary seats under the first-past-the-post elections in 2017 is this time set to win only around half the tally.
“Their partnership with the Nepali Congress did not work as planned. On the other hand, Madhav Kumar Nepal is in crisis as his party struggles for a national-party status,” said Bishnu Rijal, deputy chief of the UML’s publicity department. “So the UML will take the lead to form the next government, preferably without the Nepali Congress.”
Speaking in his hometown of Rautahat on Thursday, Nepal reiterated that a collaboration between leftist political parties is possible if the parties worked on the basis of principles.
“But we won’t partner with those who promote wrong tendencies under the cover of communism,” said Nepal. Nepal, who rebelled against UML chair Oli and launched the new party last year, said he was not happy with the election results thus far.
He said the party would review its poor performance and chart out a future strategy.
A leader of the Unified Socialist said that his party prefers unity with the Maoist Centre instead of working with the UML. “Now the process for a merger between the two parties will begin,” the leader added.
While the ongoing results of the federal and provincial elections have left the major political parties perplexed, the new Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) is in a celebratory mood.
Ahead of the elections, the UML had made a tall claim that it would win around 150 seats from the first-past-the-post and proportional representation elections. But as election results come in from around the country, the UML has won just 20 FPTP seats in the federal parliament, and is leading in 25 constituencies as of Thursday evening. But the party is dominating the vote count under the proportional representation system.
UML chair Oli on Thursday expressed his dismay over the results and warned that the country appears to be headed for political instability.
“Earlier we had hoped that the elections would bring stability including a majority government, but the results show that no party will win a clear majority,” Oli said.
“Horse trading will now begin,” said Oli.
The magic number required to form a new government is 138 at the center, and the numbers vary for each provincial assembly. But as of now, the ruling alliance of the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Center), the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Rastriya Janamorcha, and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party is certain to get a simple majority.
Although the RSP so far has won just seven FPTP seats of federal parliament, in terms of PR votes, it ranks third, only behind the UML and the Nepali Congress, and has done far better than the Maoist Centre or the Unified Socialist.
The Congress, the UML, the Maoist Center and the Unified Socialist all think large chunks of their PR votes have been diverted to the RSP, which has emerged as a dark horse.
According to a senior Maoist Center leader, there was little vote transfer among alliance members. “Nepali Congress supporters did not vote for candidates of other alliance members. This is clear from the election results,” he said.
But Congress leaders have their own gripe with voters. “Our supporters appear to have given their votes to the RSP, especially under the PR category, without clearly understanding the motives and objectives of the new party,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, spokesperson of the Nepali Congress, adding, “The party has registered unexpected success.”
Although Mahat said his party and the ruling alliance have yet to discuss the election results, he claimed the ruling alliance member parties will continue their partnership.
But the mood in the Maoist Centre is not the same. Some Maoist leaders have started saying that their alliance with the Nepali Congress has proven counterproductive, and the party should rethink the partnership.
“When we allied with the CPN-UML in 2017, we had won 36 FPTP seats, but this time we are unlikely to win even half that number,” the Maoist leader said, adding, “We will definitely review and revisit the alliance with the Congress.”
Maoist Centre’s Deputy General Secretary Haribol Gajurel said people have punished his party for its failure to come up with a clear statement against Oli’s move to dissolve parliament. “Our failure to promptly react to Oli’s wrongdoings, especially his decision to dissolve parliament twice, cost us dearly.”
“The election results point at emerging new threats to the traditional parties, and the need for the parties to introspect,” said Gajurel. “In the case of our party, the alliance with the Nepali Congress was a clear mistake.”