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UML’s approach to communist unity

UML’s approach to communist unity

It’s difficult to form opinions based solely on the speeches of Nepal’s political leaders and their political documents. More often than not they contradict themselves, disregarding their previous positions. 

Amid discussions of unity within communist parties, the recent political document presented by CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli has sparked interest, as it explicitly states UML's reluctance to endorse polarization among major political entities under the guise of communist unity. This stance has raised eyebrows within CPN (Maoist Center). Presenting his political report at the meeting of the UML National Representatives Council in Lalitpur on Saturday, Oli emphasized that aligning political forces solely under leftist or socialist banners, while excluding other ideologies and entities, is not pragmatic. 

Instead, he stressed the importance of cooperation among like-minded forces. He highlighted the need to foster trust and cooperation among diverse ideological backgrounds, suggesting that unity should evolve naturally as trust deepens. "As cooperation deepens and an environment of trust is built, those with similar ideas can gradually come together in the future. But for now, it is more important to move forward by taking all positive forces along." 

Regarding the current political landscape, Oli acknowledged that the formation of a new alliance comprising the Maoist Center, UML, Rastriya Swatantra Party, and few other parties has improved the political situation. However, he expressed concerns about the sustainability of this coalition, citing past incidents. “Based on some past incidents, contexts, and experiences, there are doubts in people’s mind about the sustainability of this cooperation," Oli said. He underscored the importance of actions over rhetoric in dispelling doubts about the coalition's longevity.

Furthermore, Oli warned of the increased possibility of instability stemming from the presence of multiple parties in parliament, particularly those with diverging views on key constitutional issues. 

"The country is in need of stability. But the presence of a dozen parties in the House of Representatives and a significant number of those disagreeing on key issues of the constitution has further increased the possibility of political instability," he said. 

The UML chair also noted the emergence of populist forces and the resurgence of traditional right-wing parties, attributing these trends to disillusionment among the populace caused by political shortcomings and economic crises. "Political shortcomings, economic crisis, lack of job opportunities and poor governance have all fed the public’s disillusionment with traditional political parties. Meanwhile, populist and right-wing forces are exploiting the public discontent," he added.

While Oli's rejection of immediate leftist unity may seem like a tactical maneuver, he hasn't entirely dismissed its possibility. UML perceives the current coalition as an achievement, having thwarted the anti-UML alliance between Nepali Congress and the Maoist party preceding the 2022 national elections. 

Currently, there are three major communist parties—UML, Maoist Center and CPN (Unified Socialist)—of which UML is the largest and strongest. In case these three parties decide to unite, the asymmetry between them is likely to make the power-sharing and leadership issue very challenging. For instance, Unified Socialist Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal may seek vital positions within the unified party, a proposition that the UML leaders close to Oli will not accept. 

The strained relationship between Oli and Nepal could also hinder the unification process. Although the Maoist is talking about communist unity, UML and Unified Socialist do not appear too keen about the idea.  “There are no immediate possibilities of communist parties uniting because of the disparity between their ideologies and their future course,” said Rajendra Pandey, vice-chairman of CPN (Unified Socialist). 

Analysts suggest that Oli prioritizes securing unwavering commitment from all parties before pursuing communist unity in the long term. Although he envisions leading a united communist front eventually, he refrains from polarizing national politics along communist and non-communist lines for now. Uncertainty looms over the future of the current coalition, with UML closely monitoring the government’s functioning while refraining from committing to long-term support for Prime Minister Dahal. Maoist leaders say Oli’s position on left unity could be a tactical move and he may have informed Dahal about it. Or else, they say this could be the beginning of the crisis in the current coalition. 

After Oli unveiled his political document, Prime Minister Dahal has also changed his position about the communist unity. 

“This government is not wholly composed of communist parties. There are other parties too. So it is not a left unity, it is just a ruling coalition. If there is an understanding among the communist parties, they may come together some day,” Dahal said. This was a clear departure from his previous statement where he said that the current coalition was a beginning of the communist unity. 

The key takeaway from Oli’s political document is that UML currently extends support to the government, but it is also keeping avenues open for potential collaboration with Nepali Congress in the future.

The discussion of leftist unity in Nepal has drawn international attention, with China advocating for a unified communist party while other democratic powers prefer a coalition government encompassing both communist and non-communist forces. Oli's political document also addresses escalating geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, cautioning against provocative actions that could jeopardize regional stability and world peace, particularly highlighting US involvement in the Taiwan issue. “The task of safeguarding Nepal’s national independence, dignity and national interests has become more complicated, amidst the changing geopolitics, geo-economics and competition between major powers,” Oli said in his political report. “We must move forward carefully to protect our national interests by viewing these changes in geopolitics with a sensitive perspective.”