Nepal emerges with ‘surprise’ new government
On December 26, 2022, Prachanda, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Nepal. This is also his third term as Prime Minister of Nepal. Previously, on November 20, Nepal held elections for the House of Representatives of the Federal Assembly held every five years. This was the second general election in Nepal after the promulgation of a new constitution in 2015. Deuba, chairman of the Congress Party, who was expected to continue to serve as prime minister, unexpectedly miscalculated , and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), which were once “fighting in the same room”, once again joined forces to form a new ruling alliance.
The emergence of new political parties
The general election is mainly conducted between the election alliances led by the Nepal Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist). The members of the left-wing democratic alliance led by the Congress Party include the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), the Communist Party of Nepal (United Socialists), and the Democratic Socialist Party. As a result of attracting a group of relatively weak political parties to form an alliance, it has shown a tendency to fight alone to a certain extent, and its alliance focuses on nationalism.
On December 7, 2022, the Nepal Election Commission announced the final results of the general election: among all 275 parliamentary seats, the Congress Party won 89 seats, becoming the largest party in parliament; the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist Party) won 78 seats, ranking second; The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) won only 32 seats; while the National Independence Party, which was formed less than half a year ago, won 20 seats in one fell swoop, becoming the fourth largest party in the parliament.
This general election presents two new features: First, the strength of the main left-wing parties has declined to varying degrees, while the strength of some right-wing parties has been greatly improved. For example, compared to 2017, the CPN (United Marxist-Leninist) lost 43 seats, the CPN (Maoist Center) lost 21 seats, and the right-wing National Democratic Party surged from only 1 seat to 14 seats. Second, the sudden emergence of new political parties reflects the strong will of the people to seek political change. With the support of most young people and intellectuals, the National Independence Party, which was formed in June 2022 by the well-known Nepalese political commentary host Ramichhane, became famous in this general election and won 20 seats. The fourth largest party in the Nigerian Parliament, Ramichane was also appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. In addition, emerging political parties formed in recent years, such as the People’s Will Party and the Citizens’ Liberation Party, also performed well in the elections.
The Congress Party “surprised out”
However, since no political party has obtained the majority of seats required to form a separate cabinet (that is, at least 138 seats), Nepal has a “hung parliament” situation. In this case, the formation of a new government requires the cooperation of at least two political parties. Since Deuba and Prachanda have publicly stated on many occasions that they will do their best to maintain the unity of the left-wing democratic alliance, public opinion generally believes that the Congress Party will lead the left-wing democratic alliance to form a new government, and Deuba and Prachanda will take turns as prime ministers .
On December 18, 2022, Nepalese President Bhandari issued a statement requiring elected members to submit the nomination of prime minister to him before 17:00 local time on December 25. Surprisingly, since Deuba and Prachanda were not willing to budge on who should become prime minister first, Prachanda chose at the last moment to be supported by seven political parties including the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and some independents. form a new government. According to the power distribution plan reached by the new ruling coalition, Prachanda will first serve as prime minister, and after half of the five-year term, Oli, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) will become prime minister; The Speaker will be elected by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center). On January 10, 2023, Prachanda passed a vote of confidence in Parliament with a high vote.
The Nepalese constitution stipulates that the new prime minister will be exempted from the no-confidence vote for the first two years after the confidence vote is passed, which means that the political situation in Nepal is expected to be stable for at least two years. However, Prachanda faced many challenges during this period: one is how to maintain the internal unity of the ruling coalition. The current ruling coalition inevitably seems to have been put together hastily, and its members have different ideologies and political demands. In particular, whether the CPN (United Marxist-Leninist) and the CPN (Maoist Center) can unite and cooperate regardless of previous suspicions will have a bearing on the ruling coalition stability. In addition, when the ownership of key positions such as the vice president, deputy speaker, cabinet ministers, and provincial governors has not yet been determined, as the chairman of a political party with only 32 seats in the parliament, how can he flexibly balance the interests of all parties and lead the government without hindrance? Prachanda’s political wisdom will be tested. The second is how to improve the stagnant economic development and increasingly difficult people’s livelihood. According to World Bank estimates, Nepal’s economic growth rate in 2022 will be about 5.8%, which is still far from the 8% target set by the Nepalese government. It is also reported that due to factors such as the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis in February 2022 and the new crown epidemic, prices in Nepal have remained high for a long time, and the inflation rate even soared to 8.64% in September 2022, reaching the highest level in nearly six and a half years. , the living burden of ordinary people is increasing, and dissatisfaction with the government is gradually accumulating.
At present, it is becoming the consensus of Nepal’s strategic and diplomatic circles to continue wandering among major powers but avoid getting involved in the geostrategic competition between the United States, China and India, while maintaining sovereign independence and prioritizing economic diplomacy. Prachanda has always been considered by the outside world to be a China-friendly faction, but he said in an interview with the Indian media after he became prime minister, “In the current Nepalese political arena, no one is pro-China, pro-India or pro-US. My attitude is pro-Nepal “. This shows that during his tenure, Prachanda will strive to maintain an overall friendly relationship with China, the United States and India, actively attract development resources, and strive to maximize Nepal’s own interests.
In terms of relations with China, Prachanda has released positive signals. He purposely chose the day when he was sworn in as Prime Minister to be the anniversary of Chairman Mao’s birthday. On January 1, 2023, he also personally attended the opening ceremony of the Pokhara International Airport built with Chinese aid. In addition, Prachanda has always supported China-Nepal cooperation under the framework of the “Belt and Road” initiative. On December 27, 2022, the China-Nepal cross-border railway technical expert team assisted by China arrived in Nepal to conduct a feasibility study. During his tenure, the China-Nepal cross-border railway construction, which is regarded by the Nepali side as the flagship project of the China-Nepal “Belt and Road” initiative, is expected to make staged progress.
In terms of relations with India, Prachanda may tend to seek progress while maintaining stability. On the premise of maintaining friendly and mutually beneficial relations between Nepal and India, he will seek to promote diplomatic dialogue between the two countries around disputed territories at an appropriate time, and start the “Nepal and India Agreement” signed in 1950. The revision of documents such as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and the imposition of restrictive controls on the open border between Nepal and India.
In terms of relations with the United States, Prachanda may “cool down” the “overheated” Ni-US relations under the previous administration. The development of Nigeria-US relations in 2022 can be described as “rapid”. Under the coercion of the United States, the Nepalese parliament finally passed the “Millennium Challenge Agreement” (MCC) on February 27, 2022, which is harmful to Nepal’s sovereign interests. Since then, US Deputy Secretary of State and “Special Coordinator for Tibetan Affairs” Uzra Zea, Commander of the Pacific Army Charles Flynn, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Donald Lew and other military and political officials have paid intensive visits to Nepal, frequently offering support to the Nepali side. pressure, requiring Nigeria to strengthen security cooperation with the United States. The United States is trying to intensify its infiltration into Nepal by playing the “Tibet card” and pushing Nepal to sign the “State Partnership Program” (SPP), which has the color of a paramilitary alliance, and further Rani joins the anti-China camp under the “Indo-Pacific Strategy”. However, during Prachanda’s tenure, Nepal may be more cautious in identifying the strategic intentions of the United States’ related initiatives in Nepal, trying its best to safeguard its own sovereign interests, and avoid becoming an anti-China geostrategic pawn of the United States.