Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Will Former Insurgent Maoist Lead Nepal?

Posted by Mike E on May 2, 2008

CSC is an NGO organization founded in Nepal in 2006 that is not sympathetic to revolutionary change. We publish background informaiton from many sources, including those whose analysis we disagree with. Thank s to United We Blog for posting this.

By Conflict Study Center

Nepal is again on the international stage. Former insurgent Communist Party of Nepal or CPN (Maoist) won an unexpected victory, both numerically and ideologically, in the CA elections (April 10, 2008) after introducing themselves with the 10-year “protracted People’s War” and 2-year long post-conflict flexible security situation and instability. The international community, following the Big House Media (BHM) propaganda that the Maoists would lose, has been astounded. The suspended King Gyanendra, who had been nonchalantly dining with generals, is now quivering. The Nepali Congress (NC), ruling for almost 18-years after the popular movement in1990, has become a fish out of water, even though it was demanding CA polls 60 years back. Madhav Nepal, who regarded himself strong founder of the CPN (UML), has resigned from the post of General Secretary on the moral grounds of the party’s defeat. His resignation has been approved, but he seems to be trying his best to win over his cadres and regain the position. 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 of assessing the defeat of its Home Minister, is amazed. The Army Chief, who used to send his generals to Prachanda for informal meetings and played tug-of-war with the Maoists from afar, has become hushed like a snake in front of a mongoose. The nearly1000 strong International Observer Team, which assessed that the Maoists would face a defeat prior to the polls, is now in a quandary. It seemed there was a consensus amongst all the mainstream political parties during the casting and counting of votes. However, they are now alleging that YCL (Young Communist League) – fusion of Maoist military and political forces – had manipulated the votes.

Combining both the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) and closed list Proportional Representation System (PRS), the Maoists received 38% votes whereas the NC recieved19%, UML 18% and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) 9% (For details please see table 4). The communist forces had received 40 percent in the last parliamentary elections of April 1999. Communist groups for the CA polls have accumulated 61 percent (excluding 26 nominees by cabinet) and thus bear the prime responsibility of drafting and ratifying the new constitution on consensus and cooperation of the SPA (Seven-Party Alliance) and other major factions. Out of 240 seats from FPTP, women make up 12% (29), of which Maoists comprise 10% (23-member – please see table 1). This result evinces that those with a younger, dynamic, clean image were elected rather than those with old ideologies, attitudes and methods; without mentioning the more disreputable leaders. The representatives between the 25-40 year age group make up 60% of the Maoists, whereas in the NC they make 8%, UML 12%, MJF 47%, etc (cf. Table 3).

The significant characteristics of the result (see table 2) are:

• Bahun and Chhetri are the most over-represented group, comprising 42.08% of the elected representatives and 30.89 percent of the population.

• Elected tarai and hill Janajati candidates are to some extent under-represented. Tarai Janajatis took 7.50% in the elections but were 8.69% of the last census, whereas hill were 24.58% of the elected candidates and 27.74% of the population.

• 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 candidates comprise 2.50 percent compared to their 7.11 percent population in the last census, tarai candidates only gained one FPTP seat (0.42%) compared to their 4.66 percent of the population. All Dalit seats are CPN-Maoist. There were no Dalits elected from the Far Western Region. Out of 7 sub-groups, Sarki, Kami and Damail elected three, two and one respectively with Paswan from tarai electing one.

Many urban/elite voters (the pillars of the, ineffective governance and administration, inequitable 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 place trust in the BMH had the hypothesis that the Maoists would reduce the votes of UML and other communist groups, resulting in the NC being the largest winner again. Therefore, they continued all types of support (economic, moral and political) to them. In addition, the NC and UML leaders were experienced and cunning in manipulating the poor and common people compared to the Maoists, MJF and others. The electorate was familiar with their permanent election symbols as well. However, the support was in vain, because the UML lost 10 percent in votes while NC lost 15 percent compared to the last parliamentary elections. As the diplomats and their intelligence agencies failed to analyze the ground reality of Nepal and they appear useless in front of their bosses, they are now seeking neutral and academic analysts, albeit ones supporting (morally and financially) the BHM. In turn, such media is also facing challenges to either identify their readers – commoners or elites – or reform/analyze their objectives and methodologies (sources of information along with key informants and their ability/competency)

This election demonstrated that the people are more aware than the political party leadership and that they are looking toward evolutionary or revolutionary trends for their peace, progress and prosperity. Despite this, 5 percent of votes were disqualified due to lack of voter education.

In 1951, the NC had shadowed the Rastriya Praja Parishad, whereas in 1990 elections the formerly insurgent UML presented itself as the second largest party.

This time, for CA polls, the Maoists have become the hot issue of debate and discussion. How did the Maoists bag so many votes? First, during the People’s War, common people were empowered. Second, their FPTP candidates were inclusive. Third, they were the force putting forward agendas of republic, federally structured government with autonomy and CA polls the longest. They were the foremost party in raising the voices of the poor, marginalized and vulnerable people. The MJF also raised these issues prominently, which resulted in them becoming the fourth largest power in the CA. Every election, people seek a forward-looking change against Nepal’s traditional development model, leader and party. The agendas and issues raised by the NC and UML were ambiguous and lagged behind the new trends. Twelve percent of Maoist elected candidates bagged three-times more votes than their counterparts, all those being from hills and mountains save Bardiya and Kailali. Although Indian forces seemed to have thoroughly wiped the Maoists from the tarai, their presence in those areas is still strong.

Although, the CA poll was more peaceful than the past parliamentary elections, there were many reports of violence in the media. The YCL was in the headlines for voter intimidation, however 65 percent of those killed during the election campaign were its members.

Why did the Maoists become the largest party? There are three aspects that garnered votes for the Maoists. First, they received votes from their cadres and affiliated people. Second, voters voters who wanted peace, prosperity and security voted Maoist to end the conflict. Last, poor and marginalized groups 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 for the position of Prime Ministry through a letter to Gyanendra was widely posted throughout the country. This also tainted the UML’s image. The UML rejected the Maoist proposal of 60:40 since they thought the latter feared defeat.

Maoist cadres claimed that India was spending a huge amount of money for the defeat of Maoists. The Indian government did not fully disclaim it. Anti-US sentiment is quite strong in Nepal. People consider the 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 intelligence mechanism shall be expelled like the invited international institutions who’s time extensions have been denied.

Maoists still face difficulties in convincing the international community that they believe in a competitive multi-party system guaranteeing human rights. The USA has not removed the ‘terrorist’ tag. 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 exerting pressure not to let go of political power, against the verdict of the people. The proposal of Prachanda of repealing past unequal bilateral treaties and agreements with India is in itself a challenge. Some left Indian intellectuals are also pressuring for revision of the unequal treaties, about which the new Indian Ambassador has given positive signals. But, Indian Hindu fundamentalists are campaigning to keep Nepal a Hindu kingdom. Because of uncertainty about the Maoists’ Public-Private Partnership policy, capital is being transmitted abroad. It could be difficult for the Maoists to work with the bureaucracy and diplomats over whom UML and NC have had a strong hold. The declaration and implementation of republic by the first meeting of CA is itself a big challenge. If a bitter relationship develops between UML-NC and the Maoists, the possibilities of the formers to align with the king to marginalize the other exist.

Similarly, consensus building for federal structures and formulation of a new constitution by two-third majority are also huge obstacles on the 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 a two-thirds majority in the house. Implementation 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 with their strategies and action plans. They have advanced the revolutionary drive, but it is not very easy for them to continue their ‘revolutionary reformism’ – Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Prachanda path – with the present state mechanism and international situation. The past has shown that ‘left’ forces are radical when outside power, but turn into ‘ultra rightists’ as they ascend to power. It is a challenge to avoid repeating the past. The forthcoming government headed by Maoists in 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 best the Maoists and the peace process was based on strategic balance. Hence, possibilities for them are: (i) comply with the government decisions; (ii) resign; and (iii) stage a coup. The third option would again plunge the country into devastation, but it is likely not possible against the verdict of people now. Not only academic qualification, but also skills, experience and bravery are important for military personnel. Therefore, an integration between ex-combatants and the NA is needed.

The writers/analysts producing reports focusing the political ground reality of Nepal in the past were labeled “Maoists” and shoved into a corner by national and international anti-Maoists forces. Now the scenario has been changed. The ground reality was reveled with the people’s mandate and the Maoists’ commitment to democracy and economic liberalism.

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), ongoing for the past three days, has decided to form a government under Prachanda’s leadership, as head of the state. Demonstrating flexibility, it has decided to offer premiership and chairperson of CA either to NC or the UML. If both do not agree in the consensus, it has taken the decision to form a ”minority government.” It also planned to stage a ”People’s Revolt” if the incumbent NC-lead government does not step down based on the fresh people’s mandate. It is a greater challenge to write and declare the new constitution than the free and fair CA polls were, because more than 25 national, regional and cultural based political parties are participating in the CA, as compared to 13 in the past parliament.

Similarly, there is no possibility of disbanding the YCL and the PLA (People’s Liberation of Army) as they are the backbone and shield of the Maoists. Will they be able to move ahead rallying NC, UML, MJF and other parties together? Sustainable peace, security and equitable development rely on confidence building measures and an alliance with all concerned parties instead of simple amending of the Interim Constitution. The people desired to end hunger, ill health, unemployment, injustice, exploitation and discrimination, and thus mandated the political parties to work in unison towards this end.

In the CA election, although mathematically some have won and some have lost, all have won in the qualitative sense. This is a victory of NC and UML as well, since the NC was the ”first in the history” to demand the CA and the UML, under the late General Secretary Madan Bhandari, had proposed it before.

Contributed by: Bishnu Pathak PhD and Chitra Niraula
Assisted by: Rushma Shakya, Rita Chaudhary, Man Pd. Neupane ‘Manish’, Ganga Puri, Meena Siwakoti and Neil Horning

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