Anticipating a close contest, political parties already preparing for 2027 pollsTraditional parties saw a drop in their vote share in recent polls, raising concerns and warranting course correction.
Not even a year has passed since the last general elections, but Nepal’s political parties have already begun their preparations for the next major and local polls. Campaigns to strengthen voter base and expand party organisation to the grassroots have become common of late.
Politicians and observers the Post spoke to say that the takeaway from the last polls is that it is a time for course correction. Both the traditional and new political parties have thus started shaping up for the polls.
The newly-emerged Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) has declared ‘Mission 84’ aimed at elections in four years' time. To prepare, the party has been building and expanding its organisations across the country.
According to party leaders, it is in a hurry as it lacks a strong organisation base across the country.
RSP’s Joint General Secretary Kabindra Burlakoti said the party has been preparing to field its candidates in all 753 local units in the next elections. “We have got around 200,000 members now. We have 77 district coordinators,” he said.
The party, under its Mission 84 plan, has organised training in all the provinces to improve its electoral prospects, said Burlakoti. “Other political parties have also started similar campaigns after our entry in national politics. They too have called for more youth participation.”
The RSP won 20 seats from the major polls last year, trouncing the candidates of a coalition of large political parties. Similarly, it won two of the three constituencies in the April bypolls. Now, the party is the fourth-largest force in the House of Representatives, with 21 seats.
Party chair Rabi Lamichhane is on a mission to win a two-thirds majority in the next elections. The party has been forging its plans accordingly.
Similarly, the Nepali Congress has started its own election-targeted campaigns. It has started a 10-day Internal Special Campaign, with the aim to strengthen the party organisation. The party has deployed central members and former central members in all 77 districts. From August 27 to September 10, the party will initiate the ‘Congress in Communities, Nationwide Campaign’. The party has also adopted a policy of adding up to 700,000 members this year.
Meen Bishwakarma, the party’s publicity department chief, said the second-largest (CPN-UML) and the third-largest (Maoist Centre) parties in Parliament will try their best to dethrone the largest party in the next polls. “We, as the largest party, have also realised the need for strengthening our presence at the grassroots level. If other parties are walking, we must run. Otherwise we will lose the next elections.”
The party’s youth leaders also recently began the Nepali Congress Rupantaran Abhiyan (transformation campaign) to unite cadres across the country and reconnect with voters. Party leaders said the top brass must seriously evaluate the party’s poor showing in the recent by-elections and poorer-than-expected performance in last year’s parliamentary and local polls.
Likewise, the main opposition UML recently kicked off its own Mission Grassroots to strengthen the communist party’s ideological and organisational bases with the aim of winning an absolute majority in the next general elections. The campaign was thought of after the UML leaders felt the need to reinvigorate the party’s historically strong but weakening organisational base following the reverses in the November 20 polls last year.
The party gave six major tasks to its leaders during the mission—renewal and awarding of new memberships, identifying problems at the local level, facilitating the local units to resolve their internal disputes, sending unsolved issues to the relevant party committees, attracting promising youths to the party, maintaining the committee system, and helping with the documentation of party members.
Insiders say the UML’s lacklustre performance in the April bypolls has alarmed party leaders. Though it didn’t lose any seats, it got significantly fewer votes in the three constituencies compared to what it had secured in the November 20 polls last year.
The last general elections hinted at a change. Some new political parties registered impressive victories, trouncing the long-established traditional forces. Also, the elections reinforced the view that the public is desperately looking for alternatives to traditional forces that have repeatedly failed to deliver, say observers.
Political analyst Jhalak Subedi said traditional political parties have been restless, thinking about whether the public will vote for them in the upcoming polls. “Especially after the last polls, a sense of fear has gripped Nepal’s seasoned politicians. So, the political parties are bringing election-targeted programmes.”
Some recent reports have also suggested that the voter base of large parties has declined. The election results hint at the same.
In terms of proportional representation votes, the UML received 26.9 percent of the votes in the 2022 general elections while the Congress got 25.7 percent of the votes cast. The Maoist Centre received the third-largest proportional votes—11.1 percent. The RSP got 10.7 percent of votes and Rastriya Prajatantra Party 5.57 percent. The two other forces that crossed the three percent threshold were Janata Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party.
In the 2017 elections, five parties had crossed the three percent threshold under the PR category. The UML got 37.1 percent of total valid votes while the Congress got 36.6 percent. Similarly, the Maoist Centre got 15.3 percent and the Rastriya Janata Party and the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum received 5.5 percent each of the total votes cast.
As the popular vote share of major parties has declined significantly, their leaders are alarmed, another political analyst Uddhab Pyakurel said. They fear that if they don’t rethink their connection with the public, they will be elbowed out by the new forces.
While bringing programmes to strengthen the party organisations and connect with the people, Pyakurel added, “the parties’ recruitment process has not improved—they have been failing to attract the youths like they did after the political change of 1990.”
“People at the grassroots level have shown indifference to the desperate effort of the traditional forces,” said Pyakurel.