Nepal: What the Election of 2022 Denotes « Khabarhub
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Nepal: What the Election of 2022 Denotes


17 January 2023  

Time taken to read : 25 Minute


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KATHMANDU: The federal and provincial elections held on the 20th of November 2022 were the second general elections after the promulgation of the 2015 Constitution.

Nepal has gone through demanding strategic circumstances with the political leaders comprehending their faults but with no acceptance, which has a political economy, the risk to diplomatic endeavors and political security orientations to Nepal.

Though strategists had reservations, the peace process that began in 2006 placed hope in the political elites particularly the Nepal Communist Party Maoists Center (NCPMC) preferred major shifts in the national political system.

It is a confrontation depriving an understanding of democratic values, Nepal’s character, national behavior, and the forthcoming geostrategic environment.

The strategic shifts in vain have not yet been delivered to the beneficiaries or the recipients of the nation-state and the Nepali people.

The newly formed coalition government under Prime Minister (PM) Puspa Kamal Dahal’s (Prachanda) third tenure, in addition, is the fourth NCPMC government after 2008.

Nepal’s democracy lacks participation by eligible voters, lacks the acceptance of geopolitical confronts, and lacks financial transparency together by the state, the political parties and individuals, which remains a challenge to the political system, governance approach, electoral system and the political party’s acceptance.

The vote of confidence by Prachanda from the parliament with 97 percent is not about the win over of the NCPMC but more about acquiring political space in power sharing for the largest Nepali Congress (NC), the second largest Nepal Communist Party, United Marxist Leninist (UML) political parties and the new forces to pursue electoral manifesto, in addition, the exasperation of the urban voters that turned in their favor.

With the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) 2006, the NCPMC was placed first with 220 of 575 seats in the 2008 Constituency Assembly election and with 80 becoming the third in the 2013 CA election.

and now with 34 with 18 on Proportional Representation (PR) again as the third force. Prachanda has claimed the coalition as a national government, which is a shortcoming in applying democratic practice with no opposition.

So, examining the political discourse of what the election outcome denotes to the stability and prosperity of Nepal and the South Asian Region is a temptation.

While Nepal celebrated her 64th parliamentary day this June the practice over the last six decades has not been democratic, effectual, valuable or successful.

Nepal’s democracy lacks participation by eligible voters, lacks the acceptance of geopolitical confronts, and lacks financial transparency together by the state, the political parties and individuals, which remains a challenge to the political system, governance approach, electoral system and the political party’s acceptance.

This has been the general mood of the electorates. Nepal has witnessed 59 Heads of Government in 62 years and 13 in 14 years post-CPA. NCPMC-led so-called ‘people’s war’ persisted for 10 years, the constitution was delivered after seven years guaranteeing a secular federal republic but is under threat.

Balloting Ambiances

Approximately 18 million were eligible to vote. 2,187 men and 225 women a total of 2,412 are inspiring for the 165 of the 275 seats in the House of Representatives (HoR) under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. The remaining 110 members will be elected within PR.

Prachanda was appointed PM on 22nd December as the 13th Head of Government after 2008 in 14 years. This raises a few arguments, one, where would have been the choices of the electorate if NSP and independent candidates did not exist?

The PR system has been an appealing platform for those that fear the FPTP system and remains close to the Party’s leadership differing from the moralities of the scheme.

Of the 330 provincial assembly associates under the FPTP system and another 220 through PR, there are 3,224 candidates of them 2,943 men and 283 women and one candidate who identifies as the other gender.

The turnout is 61 percent almost10 percent lower compared to the past two elections, which were 77 percent in 2013 and 78 percent in 2017, surely comprehending the trust in the constitutional forces the NC, UML and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) expressing their frustrations to the constituted forces the NCPMC and the Madhesi based political forces.

This election paved way for newer political parties the Nepal Swatantra Party (NSP), Janata Samajbadi Party, Janamat Party, Nagarik Unmukti Party, and independent candidates. These are familiar trends and an observable fact of expressing frustration through ballots.

88 parties were granted ballots under PR in 2017 with three alliances, a left alliance with four parties (UML, NCPMC, Rastriya Janamorcha, Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist Leninist), the democratic alliance (NC, RPP, RPP Democratic, Naya Shakti Party, Nepal) and the Madhesh alliance (Federal Socialist Forum, Nepal, Rastriya Janata Party, Nepal).

Five parties were granted as national parties though nine represented the house. The 2022 election witnessed 49 parties in PR and two major political alliances the NC-led democratic and leftist alliance (NC, NCPMC, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Socialist, Loktantrik Samajwadi Party) and the UML-led leftist and pro-Hindu-pro-monarchy RPP and the Janata Samajwadi Party) alliance.

Of the 12 parties represented in the House, seven received the national ranking. The coming of new forces and the splinters of senior parties are not unfamiliar in political parties’ history and the recent history of politics.

This signifies one, the senior political parties the NC and UML are established though differ in political effectiveness, two, the Madhesh-based parties are fragmented providing political space to the senior and new political parties and new Madhesh-based regional parties, lastly, the new political forces will remain as an influencing force in the formation of the government and power-sharing with the questions of their ideological stance and structural outline.

This raises a big question if elections are merely a tool to remain in power. The UML on the other hand time-honored partnership with light-minded political forces with nationalism, without national programs and ideological commons.

Prachanda was appointed PM on 22nd December as the 13th Head of Government after 2008 in 14 years. This raises a few arguments, one, where would have been the choices of the electorate if NSP and independent candidates did not exist?

Two, what would have been the outcome if NC and NCPMC electoral alliance did not come about? Three, Would RPP a senior force be the choice with their stance differing from the political shifts?

This raises an issuance of the strategic miscalculation of the NCPMC raising arms against the democratic system and the election merely an arrangement to rise to power than accomplish the expectations of the system and the people.

There are three needs in national politics that exhibit democratic credentials and strategic impressions.

First, is to have an alternative effective democratic force, second is more involvement of eligible voters from wherever they may in the world with digitalization, three, the transformation of party’s performances to the youth and finally with an increase in women participation feminism as part of the theory in international politics. Did this happen?

Confronts of the Elections

Unfulfilled and aggravated by the political leadership and their functioning, the social media has submerged with “No, not again” or hashtag “#nonotagain” pleading with the voters not to support or authenticate the old faces of PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, and other four former PMs Puspa Kamal Dahal, KP Oli, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal. Of the five, four are communists being alleged with governments failure and arguments from the three major parties the NC, UML, and NCPMC.

Besides Jhala Nath Khanal all were elected and were party presidents. The social media impact was unalike amongst the rural and the urban dwellers.

Economic distress is elevated in the electorate’s judgments. The annual retail price increased to 8.56 percent in June the utmost in close six years.

Foreign exchange reserves declined to $9 billion from $12 billion, which will cover imports for about six months. One-fifth of the people that live on less than $2 a day have been hit hard by inflation.

Rs 7.8 billion was spent in 2017 for the Federal Parliament and Provincial Assembly when Rs 10 billion has been estimated for the November 20 elections.

Five billion rupees was spent to hold the local level election on 13th May compared to the 8 billion 110 million requested 8 billion 950 million rupees.

The economy of $38 billion is expected to expand by 4.7 percent in the current fiscal year but down from the previous year’s estimate of 5.8 percent as per the Asian Development Bank.

One million voters have been added since the May 13th local elections with around 18.6 million. Of the 17.73 million voters 11.54 million exercised their electoral rights, though challenges existed with the list of deceased in the voter’s list, significant invalid votes as well as inaccessible booths in the rural areas pointing out correctional methods for the upcoming elections.

There are more than 40 million eligible voters that contribute to approximately 28 to 30 percent of the GDP and will not have access to exercise their constitutional rights.

As confusing in the local election, the five parties in the ruling coalition decided to contest elections under an electoral alliance to keep the UML in check, which emerged as the largest party in the 2017 elections and is looked upon as closer to China.

But the fact remains that the outcome of the election will not subside political instability, bring the corrupt to justice, deliver transparent services to the people nor will it address the national and regional challenges paving way for immediate neighbors China and India and the geopolitical factors to be more concerned than it is today.

This raises a big question if elections are merely a tool to remain in power. The UML on the other hand time-honored partnership with light-minded political forces with nationalism, without national programs and ideological commons.

But the common stand and promises of the political parties are to bring down interest rates, provide free medical services, improve transport and boost the economy in the next five years. The NC is ready to create 250,000 jobs every year while the UML pledges to create 500,000 jobs every year.

Deuba, from the democratic party, has been comprehended to resolve issues, particularly the border issues between both China and India through diplomatic initiatives and mutual relations.

KP Oli has been saying: “We will bring back land, including Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura (from India). We will not spare even an inch of our land”, while ignoring Chinese intrusions at Limi Lapcha area of Namkha Gaupalika municipalities of Humla District of Mid-West Nepal.

Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry claimed that China has encroached in 10 places comprising 33 hectares of land in June 2020.

Remittances play a crucial role in Nepal’s economy. As of 2021, an estimated one million Nepalese migrant workers and approximately 35,000 Nepali Gurkha soldiers are in India, of the 56 percent of Nepali households that received remittances, 11.6 percent is received from India of about US$ 1.021 billion annually. Nepalese numbers in China are about 3500-4000.

In 2018 Supreme Court directed the government, parliament, and the Election Commission to make necessary arrangements to ensure voting rights for all Nepalis living abroad. The directives have been overlooked for political motives of an apprehensive of swinging against them.

The political parties’ thoughts to remain in reign or efficacious in political decisions is not assisting democracy or effectiveness.

KP Oli dissolved the lower house twice within five months in December 2021 and May 2022 though it is not new in political practice that happened in 1994, 1995 and 2002.

The President supported all the origins citing constitutional indebtedness, which was reinstated by the Supreme Court’s pronouncement. But the President took a different approach with the citizenship bill that was endorsed twice by the parliament.

As in the local elections, the NC hopes emerged as the largest party, with UML coming second and the NCPMC third.

A team from Beijing has arrived to revisit the feasibility of the trans-Himalayan railway project. Prachanda said to Channel ABP “I will visit wherever the first invitation comes from. I had a conversation with the Indian Foreign Secretary. I think my first foreign will be from India.”

But the fact remains that the outcome of the election will not subside political instability, bring the corrupt to justice, deliver transparent services to the people nor will it address the national and regional challenges paving way for immediate neighbors China and India and the geopolitical factors to be more concerned than it is today.

These are glitches at hand that political parties one democratic and the other communist being drawn in by immediate neighbors to play one against the other by provoking the sentiments of the people or more appropriately the slogan of nationalism.

The common factor is that it commenced with leadership contention and intra-party differences. The recent indication with the outcome of the polls and while political parties were striding to form a new administration is the tabling of the controversial ordinance by the caretaker government challenging the fundamental of human rights derived from the universal declaration of human rights as well as democratic ethics.

Finally, the election manifesto was declared by the political parties but not by the election alliances paving way for a different coalition partner to form a government, which occurred. “Elected” does not just mean remaining in power, it means adhering to the principles of democracy in the correct path and not the interests of a political party.

Diplomatic converse

With former rebel leader Prachanda in the chair, and with ideological complications to continue with the support of confidence in the house, the likelihood of a weak PM and a strong supporter is viable.

Prachanda is observed impatiently not only forming a coalition government with the NC in addition facing up to the election with an alliance with the NC and even heading the government with the rival UML.

This raises a question of this despondency leading to giving way to signing unwanted treaties and agreements with friendly nations opposed to Nepal’s national interests.

China opened the longstanding border crossing demand, and claimed that the Pokhara International Airport project was one of the Belt and Road Initiative campaigns.

Though the primary purposes of foreign policy are to “enhance the dignity of the nation by safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and promoting economic well-being and prosperity”, complexity will drive the state policies as envisioned in Article 51 of the constitution as a challenge for potential solutions, of tomorrow.

A team from Beijing has arrived to revisit the feasibility of the trans-Himalayan railway project. Prachanda said to Channel ABP “I will visit wherever the first invitation comes from. I had a conversation with the Indian Foreign Secretary. I think my first foreign will be from India.”

Nepal’s political, security, diplomatic and economic undertakings are always changing with distinctive outlooks on the chair, changes happen but some changes are more important than others.

Nepal though small, landlocked and far from the European challenge will have implications. De-globalization is acquiring momentum but with deepening interdependency that will not go away.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine will remain a beginning of a new era in geopolitics and geoeconomics which is interconnected in different ways.

Countries around the world and in South Asia are struggling to adapt to the speed of the approaching geostrategic environment.

Co-operation will be ever more arduous but has to get stronger with democracies as restructuring will be a global process.

The challenge for Prachanda will require a systematic, coherent diplomatic approach with accuracy in making decisions.

Prachanda and his party are exhausted, and delicate and can be grabbed into other’s folds to the same degree throughout his led hostilities against the democratic state.

The new administration should be guided by basic principles of foreign policy unleashing the dignity of the nation and the state policies with an altered toolset than the government is familiar with, leaving them endeavoring and from time to time missing to get a feel for new realities.

Different perspectives will need to be reconciled, and people’s place in society beyond their economic value as consumers and political value as voters will have to be acknowledged.

A separate manifesto by the political parties when the electoral alliances are looking forward to a coalition government is a ploy and stratagem rather than commitment or allegiance and the reluctance to form a coalition government.

Human behavior, and therefore, state behavior, is driven by everything from politics and economics to culture and psychology and even technology.

Though the primary purposes of foreign policy are to “enhance the dignity of the nation by safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and promoting economic well-being and prosperity”, complexity will drive the state policies as envisioned in Article 51 of the constitution as a challenge for potential solutions, of tomorrow.

Conclusion

The reality is that there are more than 2.2 million politically affiliated or associated in different clusters and sister organizations of political parties and their close associates are hard on their choices.

Second is the neutral-aware voters temporarily migrated for opportunities who will not have access to express their rights due to the non-use of information and technology.

The third is the trend of urban and rural voters that have an unalike approach as the city dwellers usually cast against performances and in favor of new parties and candidates.

Though political parties have come out with their foreign policy, national interests have been compromised with more preferences of coming to power and a lack of national foreign policy.

The lack of understanding of geostrategic surroundings and small nations’ posture will put powers that seek support in an uncooperative position.

There is three subsistence in the election, one is the geopolitical factors of big power interest, particularly China and India.

Nepal in the next five will witness President Xi as moreover powerful, the likelihood of India getting back a more capable BJP when Biden is moderate and the European Union engaged with their own conundrum.

Political coercion will be at its peak when Nepal will be incapacitated without its unified national interests and foreign policy.

Second, is the domestic strategy of not having an ‘electoral alliance manifesto’ leaving room for/against the coalition government, which occurred through common programs consign but deprive resoluteness.

It is essential when ideologically unlike political forces are as an alliance, which is not the fact leading to other speculation of persisting in power rather than delivering. In addition, competition between the newly formed political parties and constitutional forces is at its peak.

The geopolitical narratives from power centers and interest groups will advance their goals as well as will further another five years of instability while Nepal loses.

A separate manifesto by the political parties when the electoral alliances are looking forward to a coalition government is a ploy and stratagem rather than commitment or allegiance and the reluctance to form a coalition government.

Lastly, the election system has not introduced digital measures for all citizens that is 4.5 million eligible voters who are outside the country as well as the first responders can only cast for PR. Political parties need to initiate political consensus for commitment, necessary laws and resources.

There will be more security challenges with the new administration in two phases. One, the third largest party heading the government with the rival UML and other newly formed parties looking for their space without grounds and two, the NC enduring for an opportunity to head the government shortly creating much challenged political stability, bringing the corrupt to justice and smooth governance system.

For stable national politics, the outcome of the election should create a new democratic effective force one to create an environment to pacify the political forces for accountable delivery and second to emerge as a key player in national politics to give nationalist direction with identified national interests.

Examples are the geostrategic consequences of the smaller nations of Europe during WWI, WWII and the Cold War.

It can be assumed that the constitutional political parties NC and UML will continue as leading forces while the new forces post-peace process will suffer the loss of their credibility.

This also can be termed as competition amongst the constitutional forces and constituted forces. RPP and RSP with independents will increase resulting in a coalition administration without a pre-electoral alliance.

It is a time to think of what is beneficial for national politics. The coming two years will determine ‘break or make’ the election outcome in political history and will not help Nepal’s political stability, anti-corruption drive, efficient governance management, or the region for collective ‘togetherness ‘.

Discussion of the federal political system as beneficial for national stability and regional happiness should be pursued. It is just an attraction for big powers to be mischievous about, putting priorities on the wrong foot which our politicians may provide.

One challenge that the parliament could confront is to convince the donor of national strategic benefits to pursuing economic upliftment and cultural stance. Political stability and efficient diplomacy are challenges that need to be generated with national unity. Democracy in Nepal and the Region is passing through some major stress tests.

The geopolitical narratives from power centers and interest groups will advance their goals as well as will further another five years of instability while Nepal loses.

This is where uncalculated population growth plays particularly in the Madhesh but equally important is the north borders with China.

China’s infrastructure strides in West China will take a long leap that will impact Nepal’s domestic when new settlement starts to pour in with new opportunities.

Non-state Interests groups will bring and act after adequate resistance strength is formed to counter the traditional values inviting social disorder and configuring political rights.

The political parties will be compelled to assist through interests of powers through corruption or commission. Therefore, as long as united national foreign policy is insufficiently defined big powers’ interests will swing to prevail through weak political postures as well as political parties’ centrality to remain in power. The foreign policy approach is inconsistent with the new administration.

One challenge that the parliament could confront is to convince the donor of national strategic benefits to pursuing economic upliftment and cultural stance. Political stability and efficient diplomacy are challenges that need to be generated with national unity. Democracy in Nepal and the Region is passing through some major stress tests.

(Basnyat is a Strategic Analyst associated with Rangsit University and a former Maj Gen of the Nepali Army)

Publish Date : 17 January 2023 08:25 AM

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