Ruling alliance fails to stop UMLDissimilar ideologies of the parties in the coalition seems to have not favoured them.
A group of five political parties led by the Nepali Congress forged an alliance for the federal and provincial elections with an aim to limit the prospects of the CPN-UML, but the incoming results show the allies have failed in their endeavour.
The Left alliance of the UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre had won almost two thirds of the parliamentary seats in the 2017 elections. This time around, the Congress, the party led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, went to the polls with the Maoist Centre, the CPN (Unified Socialist), Rastriya Janamorcha and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party (LSP).
As matters stand, the alliance has only managed to garner 84 of the total 165 seats (votes in Bajura, Syangja-2, Dolakha are yet to be counted) in the House of Representatives. Considering their proportional representation votes that add to the tally, the ruling coalition alone may not be able to form the next government.
Congress leader Min Bahadur Bishwakarma, however, tried to downplay the failure of the ruling coalition.
“The coalition of left allies in the last election was also aimed at party unification, but this time, we just had an electoral alliance minus the UML,” Bishwakarma told the Post. “Though the present alliance was also called a coalition, it was essentially a collaboration for the elections.”
He said the ruling parties had formed an electoral alliance where forces of various political views came together. “Forming such a heterogeneous alliance required a common vision, appealing narratives and widely-accepted manifestos, which the ruling coalition clearly lacked,” Bishwakarma said.
This time, the ruling alliance failed to win the public's trust as it could not drive home a common agenda, he added.
However, Haribol Gajurel, deputy-general secretary of the Maoist Centre didn’t buy Bishwakarma's argument that the ruling alliance had no common agenda this election.
Gajurel told the Post that their alliance had “stood together against the regressive move of KP Sharma Oli to dissolve Parliament and had formed the government on a common platform to fight the regressive forces”. He, however, acknowledged that the ruling coalition’s objective to “oppose the regressive forces had failed miserably.”
“When the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) led by Upendra Yadav quit the ruling coalition and was replaced by the LSP led by Mahantha Thakur, the prospects of the ruling alliance had got diminished from that point,” said Gajurel, explaining the reasons for the alliance’s failure.
When the government, led by UML chair Oli, decided to dissolve Parliament for the second time, a coalition of Congress, the Maoist Centre, the Madhav Nepal faction of the UML, which later broke off to form the CPN (Unified Socialist), the JSP, and Rashtriya Janmorcha had formed an alliance against Oli’s move. The coalition succeeded in unseating Oli and forming a new government.
Since then, Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba has been leading the government with the support of the same coalition that was later converted into an electoral alliance. However, Janata Samajbadi left the Congress-led coalition, accusing the other partners of doing injustice to the party on constituency distribution ahead of the federal and provincial assembly elections.
Also, many argue that one of the reasons for the alliance’s failure was the banding of the forces having diverse political ideologies. Political analyst Mumaram Khanal, however, disagrees. Like Bishwakarma, Khanal too, said that the ruling coalition shouldn’t be taken as a complete failure.
“It is true that the pre-election anticipation that all of the coalition partners would benefit from the alliance has not been realised,” Khanal told the Post. “But the Congress certainly has gained a lot.”
While the ruling alliance was unsuccessful to lure voters, the UML, the Rastriya Swatantra Party, and other fringe parties performed relatively well, experts say.
“Since the Congress did not field its candidates in all the constituencies, the UML and Rashtriya Swatantra Party benefited,” Khanal said. “While the supporters of other ruling partners voted for Congress candidates, not all Congress voters seem to have voted for candidates from other allies. Those voters appear to have preferred the UML and the RSP candidates to the coalition candidates.”
The election results show that not all cadres of the parties follow their leaders’ decisions blindly and that there are also those who challenge the decisions. But the alliance partners heavily relied on the cadres and voters of other parties as well.
Encouraged by the voter turnout in the local elections, the ruling parties decided to go hand in hand to the federal and provincial elections as well. Concerns over voter compliance with the alliance were raised nonetheless.
The November 20 elections came amid growing public disenchantment with the political parties, eventually boosting the anti-incumbency factor. The government was holding elections when the economy was on a downward spiral; ministers were heavily invested in managing distribution of electoral seats than addressing the country's economic crisis.
“People were not satisfied by the performance of the ruling coalition,” political economist Dambar Khatiwada told the Post. “People were positive towards the alliance when it was formed to oust the Oli government, but when they were more engaged in exercising power than delivering results, the people were frustrated and that anger reflected in the electoral outcome.”
Gajurel adds to that: “Political parties, especially the ruling alliance, could not gauge public opinion, which eventually reflected in the vote.”