The old guard returns

Early results and trends show parties contesting on radical and ethnic platforms have lost. However, the losers' rejection of the results does not bode well for the new Constituent Assembly.

The results and trends of the Constituent Assembly (CA) election for the 240 first-past-the-post (FPP) seats clearly indicate a hung House, with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Nepali Congress emerging as near-equal forces. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and the Madhes-based parties the self-proclaimed forces of change have suffered humiliating reverses. Worse, both have indicated they will not own the poll outcome, nor be part of the new CA. If the results for the 335 seats under the proportional representation (PR) system to be declared next week confirm the current trend for the 240 FPP seats, the forces that the UCPN-M calls "status quoists" will dominate the House. Besides, the pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) is expected to have a sizeable presence under the PR system.

The results so far and, more importantly, the refusal of parties that have suffered setbacks to participate in the CA have not only disappointed the international community mainly, the UN, US and India, who had hoped the election would bring Nepal back on the constitutional track but also brought the relevance of the CA and its ability to draft a constitution into question. The response of the losing parties is also proof that they are still far from adapting to a democratic culture, which demands a graceful acceptance of the mandate.

Who lost and why needs careful analysis. The UCPN-M, after ending its decade-long (1996-2006) insurgency, came to the peacemaking and democratic process and won a resounding victory. Similarly, the Madesh parties, which advocated radical federalism including the "One Madesh, One Pradesh" demand, seeking a single province for 51 per cent of the population, without taking into account socio-economic and educational disparities in the region have nearly been decimated, with all top leaders losing this time round as against the 82 seats they had earlier. Both the UCPN-M and the Madhes forces brazenly misused power in government, indulging in financial and other irregularities. In this election, any party raising radical and ethnic issues has lost.

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