A rough picture of the parties’ strengths and weaknesses is emerging as the federal and provincial elections of 2022 come to a close. The recent elections, their results, and upcoming power politics were topics of conversation between political analyst Krishna Khanal and The Post’s Thira Lal Bhusal and Nishan Khatiwada.
How should the recent election results be analyzed?
Local polls from May had already suggested that there was some unrest. The key message was that voters can switch sides at any time. Voters in the Kathmandu metropolitan city elected a new mayor unaffiliated with politics after becoming dissatisfied with the underwhelming performance of past mayors. The political parties, however, failed to apply their lessons.
As a result, the outcome of the November polls is not shocking—at least not to me. If the new parties and independent candidates had won the majority of the votes, it would have been unexpected. The fact that Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) is challenging the major parties suggests that voters want a change. Despite the fact that the Congress, UML, and Maoist Centre remain the dominant parties, the major polls from 2022 show that the public is dissatisfied.
Madhesh also displayed signs of the general unhappiness. The Janamat Party, led by CK Raut, has become a dominant force in the region after capturing the public’s attention. Many of the important Madheshi leaders, nevertheless, did not fare well.
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Many believe that the Rastriya Swatantra Party lacks a coherent ideology. What say you?
I don’t believe that ideologies play a significant role in modern politics. The RSP and other parties are still in their infancy. What counts is how they follow through on their promises now.
They prevailed thanks to their anti-corruption platform and assurance of fulfillment. They should now provide the groundwork for delivery by establishing clear development and good governance agendas. They should consider whether joining the government will allow them to influence changes at the policy level.
Effective governance is easier to say than to accomplish. The new parties should have specific plans. Agenda-wise planning is required to mold lawmaking in a way that facilitates good governance. The new parties should also avoid any disagreements that might develop about whether to join the government. The history of our parties implies that such disagreements can result in divisions.
Would you agree that the various pre-poll partnerships were unsuccessful?
Vote convergence has now been demonstrated to be difficult in an open system like ours where the right to vote is seen as a sovereign right of the populace. Even traditional voters are not required to consent when prominent leaders ask them to vote for other parties. When they were requested to do so, people became irate. On the other hand, political parties divided seats based on calculations made without conducting adequate research.
Which is preferable, pre-poll or post-poll alliance, in your opinion?
Pre-election alliances are preferable since partners profess to be acting collectively and have made a commitment to the electorate. Maoist Center votes also make up a portion of the votes cast in the FPTP-winning districts for the Congress. The coalition partners have fairly distributed the votes. In a sense, it holds alliance members responsible to voters and to one another.
The post-poll alliance, on the other hand, is characterized by opportunism and a desire for power. As a result, the pre-poll alliances have a better chance of lasting. Although only a theory, some alliances in India have lasted for years.
The coalitions this time around are allegedly unnatural because they include people who hold opposing ideas.
Different beliefs are ingrained in our voters. However, despite their differing philosophies, our political parties have been sharing power for a very long period.
There is no such thing as pure ideologies. Over issues like governance and development, alliances can be formed. Unnatural alliances have always existed. Such partnerships ought to be feasible, though. Right now, there are just two possibilities: a government run by the Congress or by the UML. The decisions that will be made in parliament are what really matter. Having a viable alliance for that is a good option.
After the revolution of 2006, the forces that pushed for change appear to be losing steam. What do you think of the change?
The Maoists and the Madheshis were the two forces at the time. The Maoists were unable to become a cohesive and well-organized political party. Since 2006, Maoist leader Prachanda has been preoccupied with power politics while ignoring the strength of the organization and the ground. The Maoist Center needs to understand that strength comes from a solid foundation.
Similar to this, leaders with roots in Madhesh who participate in national power politics, like Upendra Yadav, have been ignoring their constituencies. As a result, the Madhes-based parties’ foundation is also eroding.
Since 2013, the Maoist Center has controlled Nepali politics. However, it did poorly in the most recent elections. What forces will this time’s actors be?
The balance of power in the Parliament will inevitably change as new forces emerge. Rastriya Swatantra Party now has a chance to become the next kingmaker because the Maoist Centre was unable to assume that role alone. If the Congress had been able to secure a majority with the support of the Maoist Centre, the situation would have been different.
Do you think a communist alliance is possible?
No. I don’t believe a long-lasting communist partnership is possible. From a strong communist force, the Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist have broken off. They can deceive others by using the alliance card. Or, foreign governments could use this card to attempt and sway Nepali politics. However, I don’t think there is room for an alliance based on beliefs like communism. Now, a cooperative partnership is your only choice.
Do you anticipate greater political unrest as a result of more parties vying for control?
Yes. If the RSP and Maoist Center cannot agree on anything, this could be problematic. Additionally, there is a chance that a government could be established in such a scenario using less powerful forces.
How would you rate the effectiveness of Madheshi parties?
The Madheshi people still desire the emergence of additional regional powers. However, the political figures from Madhesh are reliant on powerful outside forces.
Regional forces have every right to pursue power, even at the federal level, but they should do so with a long-term strategy in mind. The Madhesh leaders have repeatedly seized control. However, it is unclear to what extent they were successful in setting the regional agenda.
The actors may vary, but the Madhesh agenda is constant. Old Madhesh-based parties fared poorly, and their key leaders either lost or battled for victory. Previous players no longer hold sway.
What difficulties do you anticipate with the large parties?
Indicated by the emergence of new forces, the public will look for alternatives if the parties continue to let them down. They desire a more effective Parliament.
The biggest obstacle for the established parties is to modify their methods of operation because they can no longer be based on traditional objectives. The Communist Party and Congress have long-standing political ideologies. We are living in the digital age, and a new generation of voters has emerged. In the era of social media, closed camps and cadre training don’t work so well.
The major parties face numerous difficulties as the younger generation disregards advice from party leaders regarding how they should vote. They look for logical explanations. The parties have not grasped the mentality of the younger generation.
What are the chances that the experienced leaders will hand the reins over to the younger ones?
The existing alliances been changed to include only their senior leaders. I believe there are fewer opportunities for new faces in power politics because the top leaders do not support leadership transition.
The next generation should voice their support for a change in leadership. Gagan Thapa’s claim to be prime minister, in my opinion, is pertinent. Additionally, I believe the moment is right for major parties’ top leaders to resign. Voting was a reflection of the public’s declining trust in political parties. It would be simpler to change the leadership if they resigned.
Intra-party rebellions appear inevitable given the reluctance of the old leaders to retire, particularly in the Nepali Congress.