CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal has entered the race for president following proposal by his bête noire CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli to that regard to prevent Nepali Congress (NC) from getting the post.
Oli made the offer to Nepal during their meeting at the residence of a Unified Socialist leader in Maharajgunj on Sunday. Nepal met Prime Minister (PM) Pushpa Kamal Dahal at Baluwatar on Monday and solicited the latter’s support to become president pointing that UML will also support him. Dahal, in response, said the parties should move forward forging consensus.
Unified Socialist leaders also met NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and urged him to help make Nepal president. “I have given words to Ram Chandra Paudel and will make him president,” a Unified Socialist leader quoted Deuba as telling them.
The Unified Socialist leader claimed that Oli himself is taking initiative to make Nepal president in recent days. There seems to be three possibilities for Nepal in the current volatile and complex political scenario.
The first is becoming president for five years, the second becoming PM for a short time, and the third getting nothing.
Talking about the first possibility he can easily become president with support of NC and Maoist Center even if UML does not support him as the three parties together can secure victory in the presidential election.
The total weighted votes for the upcoming presidential election is 52,707 including 26,307 for federal lawmakers and 26,400 for provincial lawmakers. The candidate receiving 26,354 weighted votes is elected the president.
NC has the largest share of weighted votes at 16,221 followed by UML at 15,233, Maoist Center 7,649, CPN (Unified Socialist) 2,574, RPP 2,450, Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) 2,145, RSP 1,501, Janamat Party 1,242, Loktantrik Samajwadi Party (LSP) 971, and Nagarik Unmukti Party 813.
NC, Maoist Center and Unified Socialist together can easily cross the magical figure of 26,354.
But that looks unlikely as Deuba, who has been criticized in the grand old party for failing to keep the previous coalition intact, seems determined to bring the post of president to the party to save his face inside the party.
“There is no chance of us supporting others for president. NC can’t be denied PM, president and speaker after becoming the largest party,” an NC leader told Setopati. “Why should we participate in power games if the second largest party were to get speaker, third PM, and the seventh president?”
NC would rather remain in opposition if all the important posts were to go to other parties. “We can do better by remaining in opposition instead of getting accused of maneuverings for power and then not get any posts. That would even result in political gains in the coming days.”
NC leaders also strongly feel that those who have already become executive PM should not become president. The NC leader also ruled out Deuba becoming president. “They all are rumors. A person who has already become executive PM becoming president now would not even benefit the institute of president. Politics will also become further tangled.”
The leader claimed that Nepal would ultimately recognize the spirit of the current balance of powers even though he seems elated with aspirations for president now. “It is one thing for him to aspire to become president if Unified Socialist were to merge with UML. That aspiration does not have any grounds or meaning without merger. Nepal understands that.”
Another chance for Nepal to become president without NC’s support is with help of UML, Maoist Center and one or more than one other parties. The three parties together can muster 25,456 votes.
But it is not known whether Dahal, who has already reached an understanding with NC to give the post of president to the grand old party, would be ready for that considering his unease with Oli. “We want to move together with NC for president as far as possible,” a Maoist leader confided. “A lot of bickering and lack of trust have appeared with UML in such a short period of forging the current ruling coalition. It is not possible now to elect president from this coalition forgetting all that.”
It is mathematically possible for Nepal to become president without support of both NC and Maoist Center, in principle, with support of most of the other parties if he were to decide to merge with UML immediately. But that would still be difficult as bringing RSP, LSP, Nagarik Unmukti Party—that are all out of the government—looks almost impossible in the current situation.
Nepal, therefore, must seek support of Maoist Center to go with that of NC or UML to become president.
Maoist Center, that wants to compete with UML forming a socialist center after unification with Unified Socialist, does not want Unified Socialist to get cosy with UML. NC also does not want Unified Socialist to unify with UML as its chances of becoming the largest party get difficult if the two parties were to unify.
NC and Maoist Center together can offer the post of PM for a short time to placate Nepal in the current situation. Nepal has already said that his party should have some role in power sharing and it would be unfair for others to expect the party to sacrifice its aspirations for the sake of others.
Nepal himself had proposed that he be made PM first for a year even as Deuba and Dahal failed to agree on who should become PM first as part of agreement to take turns as PM immediately after the election.
A Unified Socialist leader told Setopati that Nepal would agree if NC and Maoist Center were to offer to make him PM for a year even now. Making Nepal PM for a short period looks a better option for the two parties than making him president for five years.
But NC and Maoist Center, themselves, have yet to agree over the sharing of the five-year term. NC appears ready to accept Dahal as PM for three years. But Dahal aspires to become PM for four years. The term of Dahal would have to be less than three years if Nepal were also to become PM.
Whether Dahal would be ready to make that sacrifice is yet to be known.
NC and Maoist Center also have another option of forging a coalition excluding Unified Socialist if they decide to not make Nepal either president or PM. They can secure majority for both president and the government with support of RSP, JSP, LSP and Nagarik Unmukti Party—that are currently out of government—and Janamat Party that is unhappy despite being in the government. They can do that even without support of one or even two of those parties.
Nepal would not get anything in that scenario and he knows about that possibility. He and his party can be out of the next ruling coalition. Oli may not want to merge Unified Socialist with UML in that scenario.
Dahal has not been able to include Unified Socialist in the current government due to opposition by Oli. Oli had even chided JSP Chairman Upendra Yadav for holding dialogue for unification with Unified Socialist and pointed that JSP had not been included in the government due to the party’s proximity with Unified Socialist.
Oli, therefore, can exact revenge on Nepal for splitting UML once he gets distant from NC and Maoist Center after the expediency of presidential election ends. Nepal may even struggle to keep his 10 House of Representatives (HoR) in the party if it is out of government.