Fringe parties' survival at stake with rise in political opportunism

Published On: June 23, 2017 12:00 AM NPT By: Roshan Sedhai

KATHMANDU, June 23: As big parties with opposing ideologies court each other for electoral gains, many have started wondering whether smaller parties have any future in a political culture where survival is becoming more important than ideologies and principles.

Since the beginning of the local polls, it has become harder for voters to differentiate the right wing parties from the left.  Ideological lines among major parties have been blurred, especially after the first phase of local elections, with continuation in trend of forging 'unnatural alliance'. 

Majority of the political parties have opted electoral alliance, in many instances even with the parties that they consider political enemy, in order to bolster their performance in the second phase of local elections slated for June 28.
Nepali Congress, a centrist party, has found CPN (Maoist Center), a party boasting of Maoist philosophy, a reliable partner. The parties have fielded joint candidacy in more than 60 rural municipalities and municipalities. The case is more or less the same for UML, which claims it a leftist party, but had forged alliance with Rastriya Prajatantra Party, a far-right party advocating for Hindu kingdom, in the first phase of polls.  

“This is the height of political opportunism. They seldom unite in resolving issues of national importance or end the political stalemate. But it becomes hard to distinguish them whenever their interests are at stake,” said Federal Socialist Forum Nepal Chairman Upendra Yadav. 

Smaller parties are concerned with the institutionalization of what they call 'unholy alliance' among parties with differing philosophies.  They see the alliance as syndicate of major parties to prevent smaller and new parties from taking their place. 

Worries of smaller parties have especially grown after the first phase of local elections when smaller parties registered victory in just seven seats. Although more than 100 parties contested in the first phase of local elections, only few parties managed to win.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which has 25 seats in the parliament, won only one rural municipality. 

Sensing the potential challenges, the smaller parties have also given priority to such alliances. 

“Alliance has become essential as two or more parties are contesting for a seat. That's why we are also giving priority to alliance with likeminded parties,” said Nepal Loktantrik Forum (NLF) General Secretary Ram Jaman Chaudhary. NLF and FSFN have formed alliance with Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center) and other smaller ethnic parties. 

Despite challenges, the new political alliance has also come as an opportunity to smaller parties, Yadav said. 

“This trend might affect smaller parties in the short-term. But it will provide new avenues for new parties with clear agenda and ideologies. The party will automatically cease to exist when people see viable alternatives with clear agenda,” said Yadav. 

“These parties will remain as long as political opportunism exists. When the politics of opportunism ends, they will be washed away all at once.”

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