Nepal has been a laboratory of many political experiments, mostly power driven, bringing parties with contradictory ideologies and past enmity together, especially in the past 11 years. Birth and death of short-lived political equations have been as frequent as the change of government during the period. Nepal has seen ten government since 2006 political change that transformed the world’s only Hindu Kingdom into a secular Republic. All this while, the country has been ruled by a set of political parties and their top leaders on rotational basis, with coalition composition changing every time.
A set of eight parties, mainly the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, under mediation from Indian government had come together to dislodge the Monarchy in early 2006, promising they will work by consensus to have a country that will be politically stable, peaceful, democratic and economically prosperous. But the prolonged transition has only pushed Nepal into chaos and uncertainty. Nepal is going to face the first election to seven provincial and federal parliament in two phases — November 26 and December 7 under the new constitution promulgated in September 2015. The current transitional parliament will cease to exist effective from October 22, the day nomination process concludes. Naturally the stakes are very high for political parties, especially the big three that aspire to form the next government.
On Tuesday, three former Prime Ministers and Chiefs of their respective parties — K P Oli (Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist), Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre, and Baburam Bhattarai (Naya Shakti or New Force) — made a joint appearance in a press conference where they announced that they would field common candidates and contest the poll on a common manifesto. This, Oli and Dahal said, will also be the first step towards forming a single communist Party in the long run. Coming together of the Parties with the same ideology, objectives and the background — all the three leaders have in the past pursued policy and practice of annihilating ‘class enemies’ with an avowed objective to capture state power with violent movement — may be a good or welcome practice, but how different will this proposed alliance from the ones largely driven by power in the past? But the sudden unity has triggered unprecedented speculation about the fate of the two-year old constitution, the republican and secular principle it upholds and whether the elections scheduled in November and December will take place.
Nepal’s journey to radicalism in 2006 began with end of the decade long insurgency led by the Maoists for a republic Nepal. Indian mediation led to Maoist giving up arms and joining the political mainstream. But once in, the Maoists began dictating their ‘progressive and radical’ agenda of the war era ignoring duly established parliamentary process and without seeking larger involvement of the people in general. The other parties endorsed the Maoist agenda, not so much out of commitment, but largely because they did not want to be branded ‘regressive’. That is why the constitutional features like secularism, republicanism and federalism continue to divide people.
The fragmentation of Nepali politics and falling apart of the eight parties brought together by India on an anti-monarchy platform 11 years ago have only created chaos and enhanced level of uncertainty in a country that not only has the potential for being a vibrant bridge to emerging economy like China and India but also possesses rich water resources and energy potentials not matched by any other Asian countries.
The left alliance on the eve of national and provincial elections have forced the Nepali Congress Party that currently leads the coalition government with Maoists as the major partner, to explore an alliance with ‘democratic’ parties, mainly in rebound. Will Maoists resign from the government? Will Prime Minister Deuba sack them as the Party has already aligned with the opposition? Or will the Maoists be allowed to enjoy best of both worlds?
The hope of the Left alliance to dislodge the government has suffered a setback as together they have only 246 seats, far short of simple majority required in a House with an effective strength of 593. But the alliance is not comfortable with the prospect of Deuba continuing as the Prime Minister till the election and is likely to campaign for a neutral electoral government headed either by a retired politician or the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, an experiment carried five years ago, that has brought the supreme court’s fairness and impartiality into question.
The left alliance is bound to ensure total immunity or General amnesty to the Maoists in cases of Human Right Violation cases of the war era currently under investigation of an ineffective Truth and Reconciliation Commission, something that Maoists have although made a prestige issue. Secondly, if it wins the poll, it will try to change the current provision of a ceremonial president and an executive Prime Minister elected by the Parliament in devour of a directly elected Executive president.
While the likely tussle going to an extreme may derail even the scheduled poll, aggressive and dominant Left will try another radical agenda only prolonging the already longish transition that has gifted political instability and loss of economic opportunities on one hand and resultant external involvement on domestic issues on the other. The democratic parties coming together merely in ‘reaction’ but without any clear common minimum programmer will pose no threat or obstacles to the red journey. While political uncertainty is almost certain to be Nepal’s predicament and its bad luck, the current developments may grossly polarize political parties that have touched nearly touched 200 marks in Nepal.