Madhesh parties eye presidency as major forces remain at loggerheadsAnalysts aren’t much hopeful citing division and discord among regional forces.
In the run up to the presidential elections, Nepal’s political parties have begun their exercises to grab the top state position. Claims by several political parties to the presidential positions have thrown up multiple possibilities of who the next President and Vice President will be.
The nominations for the top jobs are scheduled for Saturday. But the parties are still discussing the candidates as consensus looks elusive even as Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been harping on it since he got the confidence of the House on January 10.
Apart from the major parties Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, Madhesh-based parties have also started lobbying for the presidential and vice presidential posts.
The Tarai-centred Janata Samajbadi Party, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party argue that since the big parties aren’t ready to accept the candidate of the rival party for the top post, the candidates from small parties may be acceptable to all and eventually become consensus candidates.
Janata Samajbadi spokesperson Manish Suman said they have already decided that the President and the Vice President should be elected through national consensus as they are guardians of the constitution. According to him, the party also believes one of the two posts should be given to the Madheshi community. “As the prime minister, Speaker, deputy Speaker, national assembly chair, and vice-chair are all non-Madheshis, either the President or the Vice President should be from Madhesh,” he told the Post.
Suman denies that they have laid claim to any post. Yet, party insiders and Madhesh analysts say that JSP chair Upendra Yadav, who lost the November 20 election, is in a bid to become the lawmaker and parliamentary party leader by elevating Ram Sahaya Prasad Yadav to the Vice President’s seat. Once a lawmaker is elected President or Vice President, the seat goes vacant and needs to be filled by re-election.
Rift is widening in the ruling coalition as the UML has been claiming the post for its candidate and the CPN (Maoist Centre) is pressing for the head of the state elected in consensus among the parties. The Congress made a strategic move when it gave the vote of confidence to Prime Minister Dahal, reviving its own presidential bid even as the five-party alliance it led during the elections split when Dahal’s Maoist Centre ditched it.
Janamat General Secretary Chandan Singh said the party is waiting for the decisions of the major forces. “Let’s see what they will decide or how they will field candidates. They should clear the path first.”
According to him, they are in favour of electing the head of state based on consensus among the parties.
The three Madhesh-based parties could play a decisive role if the major political forces remain divided and compete against each other.
The presidential election (elections of the President and the Vice President) are held based on a weighted voting system. The electoral college consists of 884 members, including 275 members of the House of Representatives, 59 members of the National Assembly and 550 members of seven provincial assemblies.
In the election for President, a vote cast by a member of parliament is considered to have the weight of 79 votes, whereas the vote cast by a member of the provincial assembly has the weight of 48 electoral votes. As such, the three Madhesh-based parties combined will have a crucial 3,884 vote weightage.
While the total weightage of the electoral college of the presidential election is 52,628, a candidate winning a majority (at least 26,315) votes is elected. If none of the candidates secures a majority, it is then decided by the second round of competition between the top two candidates.
Surendra Jha, a Loktantrik Samajbadi leader close to Mahantha Thakur, the chairman and presidential hopeful, said they are also in favour of consensus, preferably in Thakur’s name.
Thakur has met Dahal, Oli, and Deuba to share his presidential aspirations with them as his party won only four House seats and failed to get the status of a national political party. “Other parties are also positive about our chairman as a consensus presidential candidate,” Jha said.
Polls for the presidential election are scheduled for March 9, followed by the Vice President election on March 17.
Analysts who have been watching Madhesh politics, however, see little or no hope.
Sohan Sah, a Madhesh observer, does not see a fair chance of the Madhesh-based parties getting the President or the Vice President as they are short of the parliamentary power. “Madheshi parties lack a decisive role in Parliament and the Cabinet. Chances are slim,” he said.
Madhesh-based political analyst Chandra Kishore agrees that the chances are slim. If all the Madhesh-based parties came together for the presidential elections and had a single concern, it would have made some impact, he said.
While Ram Baran Yadav was elected the country’s first President, and Paramananda Jha the first Vice President, it was after a movement expressing discontent with the constitution. Their election gave a symbolic message that ‘the protector of the constitution belongs to the agitating Madheshi community’, Kishore added.
“But now, the Madhesh-based parties don’t stand united—JSP has not joined the Cabinet and is claiming the Vice-presidential post, the LSP is lobbying for the President. There can be a moral pressure if the Madhesh-based parties bargain for a post, together and united.”