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The last straw on PM Dahal’s back

PM Dahal’s fifth trust vote on July 12 highlights the intricate interplay of power dynamics, alliances and political strategies

The last straw on PM Dahal’s back

In the dynamic realm of Nepali politics, coalition governments have become commonplace rather than rare. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s current predicament, preparing for his fifth vote of confidence on 12 July 2024, highlights the intricate interplay of power dynamics, alliances and political strategies.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal initially secured 268 votes out of 270 MPs in the House of Representatives on 10 Jan 2023, with the backing of the CPN-UML, marking his second successful confidence vote since taking office. However, on 20 March 2023, he garnered support from 172 out of 262 MPs after switching allegiance to the Nepali Congress.

In his third confidence vote on 13 March 2024, Dahal received 157 votes out of 268 MPs present, following his return to the CPN-UML from the Nepali Congress camp. Most recently, on 20 May 2024, Dahal gained backing from 157 MPs out of 158, with the entire opposition absent. This vote took place in the 275-member House of Representatives, where one member abstained, and none voted against the motion.

Members of the main opposition Nepali Congress, the largest party in the lower house, did not participate in the voting due to ongoing protests within the House. His fifth vote of confidence on July 12 underscores the ongoing challenges and strategic maneuvers in Nepal’s evolving political landscape. It is anticipated that Dahal may receive no more than 63 votes in this fifth exercise of confidence since 26 March  2022.

A recurring saga

Since assuming office, PM Dahal has piloted through multiple votes of confidence, each a testament to the fragility of political alliances and the quest for stability in Nepal’s governance. His tenure began with a significant mandate, securing 268 out of 270 votes in the House of Representatives on 10 Jan 2023. Subsequent votes have showcased varying levels of support, reflective of the shifting sands of Nepali politics.

In the Parliament, the Nepali Congress holds 88 seats, CPN-UML has 79 seats and the Prime Minister’s CPN-MC, the third-largest party in the House, has 32 seats. Rastriya Swatantra Party with 21 members stands as the fourth largest party. Despite this, the Dahal government has fallen into a minority position after losing support from the largest party in the coalition. With a total of 275 seats in the House of Representatives, a majority requires 138 votes.

His fifth vote of confidence underscores the ongoing struggle to maintain a cohesive coalition amidst growing dissent and opposition calls for resignation. Despite calls from both the Congress and UML to step down and allow for a potential leadership transition, PM Dahal has opted to exercise his constitutional right to seek validation from the House.

Political opportunism

Political opportunism in Nepal’s context often revolves around the strategic maneuvering of parties and leaders to capitalize on emerging opportunities and alliances. PM Dahal’s tenure epitomizes this, as his ability to secure votes of confidence has relied heavily on navigating the complex web of coalition politics rather than outright majority support.

 

Prospects and challenges

Looking ahead, Nepal faces significant challenges in achieving political stability and effective governance. The reliance on coalition governments, while often necessary to accommodate diverse political interests, can hinder long-term policy implementation and governance continuity. PM Dahal’s tenure serves as a case study in managing these complexities, where each vote of confidence becomes not just a procedural exercise but a reflection of broader political dynamics and aspirations.

As Nepal prepares for yet another pivotal vote of confidence under PM Dahal’s leadership, the nation watches closely. The outcome will not only determine the immediate future of the government but also set the tone for Nepal’s ongoing quest for political stability and effective governance amidst a backdrop of coalition complexities and shifting alliances.

While coalition governments are a testament to Nepal’s vibrant democracy, they also highlight the challenges of political opportunism and the delicate balance of power that defines the country’s political landscape. As PM Dahal seeks to secure his mandate once again, the implications resonate beyond mere numbers, encapsulating the hopes and aspirations of a nation in search of sustainable governance.

Nepal’s political history has been turbulent, defined by seismic shifts and the transformative rise of the Maoist movement spearheaded by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Dahal. Emerging in the 1990s, the Maoist insurgency fused Marxist-Leninist ideology with a fervent call for socio-economic reform in one of the world’s poorest nations. Under Dahal’s leadership, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched a protracted guerrilla war aimed at toppling the monarchy and establishing a republic. This uprising, lasting over a decade, plunged Nepal into widespread violence and instability, fundamentally challenging the entrenched power structures of the monarchy and the established political order.

By the mid-2000s, amidst mounting national and international pressure, the Maoists engaged in peace negotiations with the government, culminating in the landmark Comprehensive Peace Accord of 2006. This agreement marked a pivotal moment, ending the armed conflict and opening the door for the Maoists to transition into mainstream politics. In 2008, Nepal abolished its centuries-old monarchy and embraced a federal democratic republic, with Dahal assuming the mantle as the country’s first Prime Minister under the new constitutional framework.

However, the journey from insurgency to governance proved arduous for the Maoist party, now rebranded as the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center). The transition was fraught with internal strife, ideological divisions, and the daunting task of delivering on promises made during the insurgency era. Despite initial hopes of ushering in profound social justice and economic prosperity, Dahal’s leadership faced criticism for perceived compromises and shortcomings.

The Maoist Center’s decline as a political powerhouse can be attributed to several factors. The party struggled to effectively address the socio-economic grievances that initially fueled its rebellion, leading to a gradual erosion of popular support. Internal power struggles and factionalism further undermined its organizational coherence and electoral prospects. Allegations of corruption and a perceived drift toward authoritarianism tarnished the party’s image, exacerbating its challenges on the political stage.

In recent years, the Maoist party, under Dahal’s continued leadership, has experienced diminishing electoral success. The 2017 parliamentary elections saw significant losses for the party, signaling a declining influence and support base among Nepali voters. This setback has been compounded by the emergence of new political dynamics and the rise of competing parties, relegating the Maoists from their once-dominant position in Nepal’s political landscape.

The trajectory of Nepal’s Maoist movement illustrates the intricate dynamics of revolutionary ideologies transitioning into the realm of governance. While the Maoists played a pivotal role in reshaping Nepal’s political fabric and dismantling the monarchy, their journey has been marred by internal discord, ideological challenges and the pragmatic realities of governance.

As Nepal continues its democratic evolution, the legacy of the Maoist movement remains intertwined with the nation’s history, offering poignant lessons on the complexities of revolutionary change and the enduring quest for socio-economic transformation in a diverse and evolving society.

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