KATHMANDU, Dec 26: As the formation of the new government gets delayed over the National Assembly ordinance row and the unity process becomes uncertain, mistrust between the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), which had forged an electoral alliance with an understanding to subsequently unify the two leftist parties, has deepened in recent days.
Mistrust has grown lately as Maoist Center leaders are apprehensive that UML may choose to ally with other parties to form a new government amid uncertainty surrounding the party unification process.
Maoist Center first grew suspicious of the UML after UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel declared that the prime minister will be both party chairman and the party's parliamentary leader. This was against the understanding reached between the two parties on rotating the prime ministership and chairmanship of the united party between UML Chairman KP Oli and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, according to second-rung leaders of the Maoist Center.
Although General Secretary Pokharel later managed to clear the air, saying that they could agree on a time frame for sharing all these posts between the two senior leaders, suspicion between the two parties did not end. Given Dahal's unpredictable nature, UML leaders grew apprehensive of the Maoist Center after a section of NC leaders started lobbying to make Dahal the new prime minister.
In the recent parliamentary elections, UML secured 80 seats and Maoist Center 36 out of the total 165 seats under first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. Similarly, NC, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) secured 23, 10 and 11 seats, respectively.
Although the Election Commission is yet to declare the results for the 110 seats under proportional representation, simple arithmetic in the 275-member lower house suggests that UML will be in a position to form a government with the support of FSFN alone, while Maoist Center can form a government under its leadership only if it lines up the support of NC, FSFN and the RJPN.
Not surprisingly, UML also began backdoor negotiations with the Upendra Yadav-led FSFN to form a new government in exchange for UML support to FSFN to form the government in Province 2. But these backdoor negotiations did not go well for UML.
While Yadav did not commit support to an UML-led government unless their demand for constitution amendment was addressed, the overtures only made the Maoists more skeptical about UML. Already frustrated over the delay in the party unification process, Dahal alleged in public that UML was trying to form a government without Maoist support.
“There was an effort to form a new government with the support of Upendra [Yadav]. But since Upendra Yadav is not in a position to leave the other Madhes-based parties, a leftist government is not possible without the support of Maoist Center,” Dahal said at a function in Kawasoti, Nawalparasi on Saturday.
Dahal also claimed that the NC had offered him support to become prime minister for the next five years, apparently to break the leftist alliance.
However, NC senior leader Bimalendra Nidhi denied any such overtures. “Our party will stay in the opposition in view of the verdict of the recent elections,” he said.
Amid growing dispute and uncertainty over the formation of a new government and party unification, the two leftist parties have lately also stood at odds over the formation of the National Assembly. While UML is rooting for a majority-based electoral system, Maoist Center has moved closer to NC, suggesting that they could opt for single transferable votes to ensure representation of the opposition party in the upper house.
UML and the Maoist Center have meanwhile not been able to convene a meeting of their party unification coordination committee for the past few days as senior Maoist leaders including Chairman Dahal and his deputy Narayan Kaji Shrestha are out of Kathmandu Valley. "It is true we have some serious differences. But we are committed to uniting the parties and forming a stable government that will unleash development and prosperity in the country. These all depend on the UML now," said a senior Maoist Center leader, asking not to be named.