Anti-incumbency forces challenge Nepal’s old parties

The Annapurna Express

The Annapurna Express

Anti-incumbency forces challenge Nepal’s old parties

For the new party’s sustainability it must have an underlying ideology

Vote counting for the Nov 20 elections is underway across 165 constituencies. And if the preliminary count is anything to go by, independent and new party candidates are likely to give old established parties the run for their money.

As of Nov 21 evening, Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), a new party led by former TV host Rabi Lamichhane, was ahead in several constituencies including in Kathmandu Valley. Nepali Congress was leading in more than three dozen constituencies, CPN-UML in 18, and RSP in eight.

For a new party like the RSP, to hit the ground running like this suggests that major political parties can no longer rely on their traditional voter base to win their elections.

There was a time when elections used to be a three-horse race between Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, and CPN (Maoist Center). In Madhes Province, these three parties compete against the Madhes-based parties. Not anymore.

New parties and independent and RSP candidates are posing tough challenges to the ‘heavyweights’ of old political parties. Similarly, young faces of major political parties are leading in several constituencies.

These two trends clearly give a strong message: people are frustrated with old faces and they want to see new faces at the helm of politics. Major parties NC and UML are unlikely to face a major loss in this election but it serves as a big warning to them to mend their ways. NC is likely to emerge as the largest party from elections followed by CPN-UML.

Preliminary counting shows Maoist party is unlikely to fare well in the urban areas. The party is likely to win seats in the mid-west, Madhes, and in the hilly district.

Nepal’s Nov 20 parliamentary and provincial assembly elections registered a voter turnout of 61 percent, 7 percent below than 2017 national elections.

In every election after 2008, a new trend is emerging. In 2008, the former rebel Maoist party unexpectedly emerged as the largest party.

In the second Constituent Assembly elections held in 2013, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, a royalist party, secured 25 seats in the Constituent Assembly.

In 2017, parliamentary elections then left the alliance of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) secured almost two-thirds votes. This time, RSP and some independent candidates are likely to make their presence in the national parliament.