Left Unity: Positive Move For Stability
The announcement of 6-point agreement between the three communist parties - CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Center and Naya Shakti Party Nepal - on October 3 about their formation of electoral alliance and planned party unity came as a big surprise. The event was bewildering to many, including the rank and file of the concerned three parties as there was no prior indication of such a move. As the two major leftist parties in the country, the second largest and the third largest party in the present parliament, have taken an unprecedented step to unify, particularly at a time when two historic elections - the federal parliament and the provincial assembly- are to be held within next two months, the main ruling Nepali Congress party has felt a shock.
In response to the leftist unity, the NC has called for democratic coalition, inviting all fringe parties, including the Madhes-based parties, such as Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP) and Federal Socialist Forum (FSF). But the NC move is unlikely to bear much fruit given the electoral alliance formed between RJP and FSF.
Whether the democratic coalition gets formed as desired by the NC or not, it is very likely that there will be no hung parliament if the leftist alliance retains its strength as gained in the recently held local polls in the federal parliament elections, and this will usher in a period of political stability which will in turn be good for economic development. As the upcoming election will mainly be a tough competition between the two alliances, the democratic and the leftist, the result of the election will hopefully pave the way for much expected political stability even in case the democratic alliance emerges victorious.
The leftist alliance which is to be developed into unity has been a historic move for political course of the country for at least a decade or so. For their part, UML chairman and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli and CPN-MC chairman and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ have taken a bold and decisive political step for a journey towards what in the constitution has been termed as socialism-oriented economy.
As per the 6-point pact, the UML and the MC will file their candidates under the first-past-the-post electoral system in the upcoming elections in the ratio of 60 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, and they will share their percentage with other parties which join the alliance. No specific percentage has been allocated for the Naya Shakti Party Nepal led by former prime minister and Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. The three parties have decided to formulate a joint election manifesto for the parliamentary election. But, surprisingly, they have mentioned that such a manifesto ‘can’ be made also for the provincial assembly elections, which also means the parties may as well have separate election manifesto for the provincial assembly elections. This gives sufficient room for doubt whether the decision for party unity among these three is made in haste.
The MC and UML candidates will have their respective party’s election symbol but the candidates of the Naya Shakti will share UML’s election symbol ‘Sun’. In this way, the MC and UML will also have yet one more chance to measure public support for them through proportional representative system or the vote their parties get during the election. It is likely this may have some kind of impact on their negotiations about share of power in the party organisation which may derail the course of unity itself.
The UML and the MC have the same ideological basis as they both claim to be communist and championing for the working class people. But they have a host of differences over multitude of issues related to the leftist movement in Nepal. Although these two parties may not have much difference with regard to how to move toward a socialist state as they are pursuing their objective through peaceful and democratic means, they have many thorny issues to resolve, such as how to recognise the decade-long armed rebellion which Maoist call the people’s war.
The MC is likely to step back from unity if the people’s war is not recongnised while the UML will find it hard to present the armed insurgency as something positive despite the fact that the UML had also raised arms long ago to cleanse the feudal lords in around 1972. But it can very well be expected that they might keep the issues open for discussion to draw conclusion in future and materialise the pledged unity as their unity is for future, not the past.
Besides kindling hope for political stability, the announcement of unity among these parties have also indicated an end to the identity politics, regional or ethnic, which has been raising its ugly head in the recent few years. Identity politics in a mixed society like Nepal was going to harm all social, cultural, political fabric of the country. However, with the announcement of planned communist unity, even parties harping on identity politics such as the Madhes-based ones have been forced to either align with ideological based alliances or compete all alone. Re-orienting the nation’s political course toward ideological lines is the immediate positive effect of the leftist electoral alliance even if there is no unity among them.
As the three communist parties announced their planned unity amidst agreement to form an electoral alliance just when the elections are around the corner, the main ruling NC has been shocked. As the MC is also a major ruling party in the NC-led ruling coalition, the NC has blamed the MC for deception. Although the MC has repeated it is not for changing the government, the NC seems to be searching for ways to kick out its major ruling partner. If this happens, the scheduled elections will be severely hampered.
Therefore, the immediate challenge for these three parties is to cooperate with the government and ensure that the elections are held in time and in peaceful and fair manner. The NC should remain assured that the leftist alliance is unlikely to grab so landslide victory as the NC is afraid of or the leftist alliance has anticipated.