New faces, defeated ones complicate choice of NA candidates

Published On: January 21, 2018 11:23 AM NPT

KATHMANDU, Jan 21: Selection of candidates for the National Assembly election is turning out to be a herculean task for the major political parties, with hundreds of leaders lobbying for a place in the upper house of the bicameral legislature. 
The National Assembly poll, which will elect 56 out of its 59 members, is taking place on February 7. 

With hardly three weeks remaining till then, none of the major parties has been able to select its candidates because of the long list of aspirants. The list includes both those who were denied tickets in the parliamentary, provincial and local unit polls and those who were defeated in those polls.

While Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN (Maoist Center), the second and third largest parties in terms of  number of seats won in the recently held federal and provincial assembly elections, are planning to finalize their candidates  through a meeting of the top leaders, the UML is waiting for the recommendations of the party's provincial committees. 

Similarly, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), the two Madhes-based parties which are expected to win two seats each in the upper house, are also planning to pick their candidates through meetings of their top committees. 

The ruling NC is facing bigger challenges in finalizing its candidates. Besides new faces, many senior party figures who were defeated in the elections, have been mounting pressure on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also the party president, to secure a seat in the National Assembly. 

More than a dozen senior NC leaders including Ram Chandra Poudel, Bimalendra Nidhi, Arjun Narshing KC, Krishna Sitaula, Ram Sharan Mahat, Ramesh Lekhak and Gopal Man Shrestha had lost in the recent elections. Many of them have now expressed interest in the upper house despite the fact that NC is likely to get only around half a dozen seats.  
Since the constitution obliges the parties to ensure 33 percent representation for women as well as representation for Dalits, the disabled and minority groups, NC will be hard pressed to accommodate the defeated party heavyweights. 

Of the eight seats each allocated to the seven provinces, the constitution has made it mandatory to elect three women and at least one member each from the Dalit and disabled or minority groups. In addition to that, parties are further required to ensure proportionate representation in the bicameral parliament as a whole. 

UML is facing a similar challenge in candidate selection despite the fact that only a few of its top leaders were defeated in the recent elections. Over 300 individuals who have not received tickets so far have expressed interest in getting into the upper house, according to party leaders. A total of 52 candidates have been recommended from Province 2 alone, while the other provinces are in the process of recommending their names. Among party leaders defeated in the latest elections, only Vice Chairman Bamdev Gautam is likely to get a ticket. 

UML leaders said that many who hoped to contest the provincial and parliamentary elections were left out after the party forged an alliance with Maoist Center and they are now looking to secure seats in the National Assembly.

Unlike the bigger parties, the  Maoist Center is under pressure from the various factions that were integrated into it in the past two years. The factions led by Ram Bahadur Thapa, Matrika Yadav, Pari Thapa and Mani Thapa, which have been unhappy with the party establishment for denying them a respectable number of tickets for the parliamentary and provincial assembly polls, are pressing the party chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, to guarantee them seats in the National Assembly. Some senior leaders including Narayakaji Shrestha, who lost the recent polls, are likely to be accommodated in the upper house. 

CPN-UML has reached an agreement with Maoist Center, its partner in the left alliance, on sharing   National Assembly seats. The two left parties will get 29  and 14 seats respectively. 

Members of the upper house will be elected through a direct vote cast by a 2,056-member electoral college consisting of the newly-elected members of the provincial assemblies and the chiefs and deputy chiefs of the 753 local units. 

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