By Conflict Study Center
Nepal is again a hot topic because of the former insurgent Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or CPN (M)’s unexpected victory in the CA elections. International communities that followed the Big House Media (BHM) propaganda that the Maoists would be lost have been astounded. The suspended king Gyanendra, who used to pay visits to the generals for dinners with smiling face, is now quivering. Nepali Congress (NC), ruling for almost 18-years after popular movement I 1990, has become a fish out of water, although NC demanded CA polls 60-year back. Madhav Nepal, who regarded himself strong founder of the CPN (UML), has resigned from the post of General Secretary on the moral background of party’s defeat and it has been approved, but is trying his best to win heart and mind of UML leaders and cadres to be the President of the party soon. The 97,000 NGO activists, mostly affiliated to UML and NC, who joined the election observation to tag the Maoists’ for rigging the CA polls have been flabbergasted. The security mechanism, which is incapable to assess the defeat of its Minister of Home, is amazed. The Army Chief, who used to send his Generals to Prachanda for informal meetings and performed tug-of-war with the Maoists from afar, has become hushed like a snake in front of a mongoose. About 1,000 strong International Observer Team, which assessed that Maoists would face a defeat prior to the polls, now is in a quandary. It seemed a consensus amongst all the mainstream political parties during the casting and counting of votes. However, as the results were unanticipated, they now are seeking to clamor that YCL (Young Communist League) – fusion of military and political force of the Maoists had manipulated the votes.
Combining both the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) and party’s closed list Proportional Representation System (PRS), Maoists received 38% votes whereas NC 19%, UML 18% and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) 9% (For details please see this table). The communist forces had received 40 percent seats in last April 1999 Parliamentary elections. This time leftists have accumulated 61 percent (excluding 26 to be nominated by the cabinet). Out of 240, women from FPTP consisted of 12% (29), of which Maoists comprise 10% (23-member – please see this table) alone. This result is evident that younger, clean image, fresh and dynamic were elected rather than old ideologies, attitudes, methods along with ill-famous leaders. The representatives between 25-40 year age group of Maoist are 60%, whereas NC 8%, UML 12%, MJF 47%, etc (see this table). The significance and characteristics of result (see this table) are:
• Bahun and Chhetri are the most over-represented group proportionately comprising 42.08% of the elected representatives in 30.89 percent of the population.
• Elected tarai and hill Janajatis candidates are to some extent under-represented in proportion of 7.50 percent in 8.69 percent of the last census and 24.58 percent of the elected candidates in 27.74 percent of the population respectively.
• Madhesis are over-represented (22.92 percent of the elected candidates) in terms of their 19.12 percent population.
• Both hill and tarai Dalits are under-represented among elected candidates where hill comprises of 2.50 percent in compared to their 7.11 percent population in the last census and tarai consists of only one (0.42%) elected candidate as compared to their 4.66 percent of the population all from the CPN-Maoist. There was no single Dalits elected from the Far Western Region. Out of 7 sub-groups, Kami and Sarki elected three in each and one Paswan from tarai.
Many urban/elite voters (the pillars of the political instability, ineffective governance and administration, inequality – distribution of resources and opportunities, inadequate service delivery system, injustice to identities and beliefs, , inefficient socio-cultural and political-economy transformation), along with high-profile diplomats who have much trust upon BMH had a hypothesis that Maoists would reduce the votes of UML and other communist groups resulting NC to be the largest winner again. As a result, they continued all types of support (economic, moral and political) to them. On the other side, the leaders of NC and UML leaders were experienced, vocal and cunning to mislead the poor and common people in compared to Maoists, MJF and others. People were familiarized their permanent election symbols of their parties too. However, those analyses went vain, because UML lost 10 percent votes while NC lost 15 percent in compared to the last parliamentary elections 1999. As the diplomats and their spies failed to analyze the ground reality of Nepal and they become futile in front of their bosses, they are now seeking to neutral and academic analysts albeit supporting (financial and moral) to the BHM. On the other hand, such media is also facing challenges either to identify their readers – commoners or elites or reform/analyze their objectives and methodologies – source of information along with key informant and its ability and competency.
This election showed that the people are more aware than the political party leadership and that they are for forward looking evolutionary or revolutionary trend for their peace, progress and prosperity. Even though, 5 percent votes were disqualified due to lack of voter education.
In 1951, the NC had shadowed the Rastriya Praja Parishad, whereas in 1990 elections the UML (former insurgent) presented itself as the second largest party.
This time for CA polls too, the Maoists have become a hot issue of debate and discussion everywhere how Maoists bagged such huge votes. First, during the People’s War, common people were empowered. Second, the FPTP candidates were inclusive. Third, they were the force putting the agendas for republic, federal structure government with autonomy and CA polls in priority since a long. They were the one to raise the voices of the poor, marginalized and vulnerable people. The MJF also raised these issues prominently, which resulted them to become the fourth power in the CA. Every election, people seek forward-looking change against Nepal’s traditional development model, leader and party. The agendas and issues raised by NC and UML were ambiguous lagged behind the new trend and new waves. Twelve percent Maoist elected candidates bagged three-times more votes than their counterparts, and most of those are from hills and mountains, except Bardiya and Kailali. Although India’s role to wipe out Maoists from tarai seemed quite tough, their presence in those areas is strong.
Although, the CA poll was more peaceful than the past parliamentary elections, there were many reports of violence in the media. YCL was on the headlines of election rigging, however 65 percent of those killed during the election campaign belonged to them.
Why the Maoists became the largest party? There are three aspects that caused people to cast vote for the Maoists. First, they received votes from their cadres and affiliated people. Second, voters who wanted peace, prosperity and security. Last, poor and marginalized groups who were attracted by their slogans and manifesto.
During the People’s War, UML and NC concentrated in the cities, whereas the Maoists spread their influence not only in the rural areas but also in the cities and towns.
The poster of Madhav Kumar Nepal bowing in front of Gyanendra, during his coronation ceremony and begging the position of Prime Ministry through request letter to Gyanendra was widely posted throughout the country. This also smeared UML’s image. UML rejected the Maoist proposal of 60:40 since they thought that the latter feared of defeat.
Maoist cadres claimed that India is spending huge amount of money for the defeat of Maoists. Nevertheless, neither any parties alleged nor the Indian government, which aroused suspicion amongst the voters, disclaimed it. Anti-USA sentiment is quite strong in Nepal. People consider NC and UML close to the USA and that reduced their voters. The US strategy to ‘observe India, encircle China’, has become a flop after the CA polls result. Its spy mechanism shall also be returned back along with not extending the time of invited institution.
Maoists still face difficulties in convincing the international communities that they believe in competitive multi-party system guaranteeing all fundamental human rights. The USA has not removed the ‘terrorist’ tag over it. The seven political parties are being polarized for and against YCL and ex-combatants. The group of NC leaders likes Sher Bahadur Deuba (former PM) et. al. are putting pressure not to let go the political power, which is against the verdict of the people. The proposal of Prachanda for repelling of all past unequal bilateral treaties and agreements with India is in itself a challenge. Some left Indian intellectuals are also pressurizing for revision of the unequal treaties to which the new Indian Ambassador has given positive signals, but Indian Hindu fundamentalists are campaigning to keep the Hindu kingdom. Because of unsure about Maoists’ Public-Private Partnership policy, capital is being transmitted abroad. It would be difficult for the Maoists to work with the bureaucracy and diplomats over whom UML and NC have had strong hold. The declaration and implementation of republic by the first meeting of CA is itself a big challenge. If bitter relationship develops between UML-NC and Maoists, the possibilities of the formers to align with the king exist by marginalizing the other.
Similarly, consensus building for federal structures and formulation of new constitution by two-third majority are also huge obstacles on their road ahead. MJF’s proposal to include other mainstream parties, emerged after the elections, along with the Seven Party Alliance in the Interim Constitution also requires two-third majority in the house. Implementing of the Agreements and Understandings with different parties/groups is also of serious concern. If those are not taken with due gravity, the security situation would become more vulnerable than in the past.
The Maoists’ also have challenges within their strategies and action plans. It has advanced the revolutionary drive, but it is not very easy for them to continue their ‘revolutionary reformism’ – Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Prachandapath – at present state mechanism as well as international phenomena. The past has shown that ‘left’ forces are radical revolutionary when outside the power, but turn into ‘ultra right’ as they ascend to power. There is the challenge of slipping to repeat the past. The forthcoming government headed by Maoists is at the edge of a sticky situation. Unless the Maoists pursue honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability and belief in the people, it will be difficult for them to surmount these obstacles.
The Nepal Army (NA) and the security mechanism did not win over the Maoists and peace process was based on ‘neither/nor’. Hence, possibilities for them are: (i) comply with the government decisions; (ii) resign; and (iii) stage a coup. The third option will again plunge the country into devastation, but it is not possible against the verdict of people now. Not only academic qualification but also skills, techniques and bravery are important for military personnel. Therefore, there is needed to have an integration between ex-combatants and NA.
The writers/analysts producing reports focusing the political ground reality of Nepal in the past labeled as “Maoists” and shaved to a corner by anti-Maoists national and international forces. Now the scenario has been changed due to the ground reality coincided with the people’s mandate and Maoists commitment to democracy and economic liberalism. Those earlier anti-Maoist national and international forces are flabbergasted because their analysis burst as soap bubbles.
It is quite certain that Maoists will lead the government soon, as it is the largest party in the CA. The Central Committee meeting of CPN (Maoist), continuing since three days, has decided to form government under Prachanda’s leadership, as head of the state and demonstrating flexibility, decided to offer Premiership and Chairperson of CA either to NC or the UML. If both do not agree in the consensus, it took the decision to form ‘minority government’. It also planned to stage ‘People’s Revolt’ if the incumbent NC-lead government does not step down based on the fresh people’s mandate. The biggest challenge is to write and declare the new constitution than the free and fair CA polls, because more than 25 national, regional and cultural based political parties are participating in the CA, as compared to 13 in the past.
Similarly, there is no possibility to disband YCL and the PLA (People’s Liberation of Army) as they are backbone and shield of the Maoists. Will be able to move ahead rallying NC, UML, MJF and other parties together? Sustainable peace, security and equitable development rely on confident building measures and alliance with all concerned parties instead of SPA amending the Interim Constitution. People’s desire is to end hunger, ill health, unemployment, injustice, exploitation and discrimination, and thus mandated the political parties to work unison towards it.
In the CA is election, although mathematically some have won and some have lost, but all have won in the qualitative sense. This is a victory of NC and UML too, since, NC was the ‘first in the history’ to demand for the CA and UML, under late General Secretary Madan Bhandari, had proposed for it.
Contributed by: Bishnu Pathak PhD and Chitra Niraula
Assisted by: Rushma Shakya, Rita Chaudhary, Man Pd. Neupane ‘Manish’, Ganga Puri and Meena Siwakoti