National Assembly Election

Partnership Among Ruling Alliance

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Given that every candidate put forward by the ruling coalition partners is expected to win the January 25 National Assembly elections, which are being held to elect 19 members, it is apparent that the close collaboration among ruling parties is still going strong. With a majority in both provincial assemblies and local units, the ruling alliance partners will have no trouble in electing their candidates, who will be chosen by the votes of 1498 chiefs and deputies from local units and 549 members of provincial assemblies.

According to reports, the Nepali Congress will send its ten members, the Maoist Centre will elect six, the Janata Samajwadi Party one and the Unified Socialist Party two to the upper chamber of the bicameral parliament. Also, the coalition has decided on Durga Paudel, a National People's Front candidate who had lost the House of Representatives general election last year, as the nominee for a member, who the president will nominate.

Fresh faces

This time, there was a lot of excitement around the elections for the 19 seats in the parliament's upper body. The media, rival parties, and even handful members of the ruling parties have put pressure on the ruling coalition partners not to field the candidates who either lost the parliamentary elections held last year or who have or had enjoyed pelf and perks of high positions. They desired that these parties present fresh faces to the National Assembly, which is recognised as the assembly of highly qualified professionals in their specialised sectors. It turned out, nevertheless, that the ruling coalition's parties were unable to adhere to this philosophy and had filed a few candidates who had either lost their previous elections or had held prominent positions.

The Nepali Congress’s chief Sher Bahadur Deuba appears to be under intense pressure to name senior leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula as a candidate. With incumbent Upper House chair Ganesh Timalsina's term expiring in one and a half months, Sitaula is expected to replace him. No denying that our political parties' tendency to field or nominate veteran candidates has undoubtedly hurt them; their chairmen and leaders seem unable to withstand the pressure from influential party members. Party leaders also have a special fondness for some members whom they hope to see in parliament, as they would be of assistance to them in difficult circumstances.

As a result, these parties' other leaders and workers undergo suffering and hardship. Many of these party workers and leaders often become so frustrated that they quit their mother party and join others. One such example is Swarnim Wagle, a well-known economist and member of the Nepali Congress, who left the Congress to join the recently established Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) after being denied the opportunity to run for parliament. He joined RSP, and after winning a by-election in the Tanahu district, he was elected to the parliament.

In addition to selecting a few candidates who had already suffered setbacks in the general elections, parties also attempted to entice the main opposition by sharing seats with the party in the Upper House elections. In exchange for the opposition party's cooperation in passing a contentious bill on transitional justice, the leaders of the alliance's two major parties, the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress, sought to provide the latter some seats. Additionally, reports suggest that the two parties sought the assistance of the UML chair KP Sharma Oli in handling the irregularities of the telecom industry. Since the UML chairman refrained from publicly endorsing them, the sharing of a few seats with the main opposition could not take place. 

As a result of several of its members' terms ending on March 3, the main opposition will now only hold eight seats in the 59-member Upper House. The seat-sharing talks failed due also to opposition from some ruling party members who were aspirant to the coveted parliamentary membership. In the meantime, the anticipated breakup with the UML, according to observers, is a positive sign for the nation's democracy because democratic principles and spirit guarantee that the opposition should refrain from forming an alliance with the ruling party on contentious and hotly contested matters. If the ruling parties participate in unethical behaviour, the main opposition must do its responsibility to expose them.

Meanwhile, the goal of every election must be to strengthen our system of government. Political parties that have worked hard to build federalism and republicanism in the country must be cautious not to allow the opposing forces to have the upper hand in national politics at this time when the forces hostile to federal republicanism have raised their ugly heads.

Qualified candidates

These days, a number of pro-royalists and pro-royalist parties like the Rastriya Prajatantra Party have expressed extreme disapproval of coalition parties' performances. The reports of involvement of senior leaders in corruption and non-performance in the government have made the matter worse for the coalition. Certain segments of the public have cautioned these political parties that their current performance may dent republicanism, federalism, and secularism, which will greatly appease the forces that want to see a return of monarchy as well as unitary system of governance, besides turning the country into a Hindu state.

Therefore, major ruling parties need to take steps to send qualified candidates to the Upper House. It is disheartening to observe that the Upper House, which ought to consist of specialists selected from several disciplines, has been turned into a chamber of loyal lawmakers hand-picked by party bosses. Because of this, the National Assembly has become an ineffective parliament chamber whose members follow the "order and advice" of their party bosses due to the practice of hand-picking close party friends and confidants. The bicameral parliament's upper body needs to be transformed into an efficient body of experts, which would give our parliament a lot of credibility. 

(Upadhyay is former managing editor of this daily)

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