Newbies seek to change political landscape of Nepal

By Sangam Prasain

Kathmandu, Nov 15 (EFE).- As Nepal general elections approach, two new parties of so-called independents want to challenge the power of traditional political groupings in the Himalayan republic.

The Rastriya Swatantra Party (National Independent Party) and the Hamro Nepali Party (Our Nepali Party) are eager to repeat recent electoral victories like that of independent candidate Balendra Shah, a rapper and engineer, who won the Kathmandu mayorship in May.

“Obviously, people are dissatisfied with the traditional old parties. The political leaders do not change for decades,” political analyst Indra Adhikari told EFE.

“Same old faces keep emerging in the elections and they make the same old commitments,” he said, adding that the new parties “might upset the conventional parties in this election.”

The Himalayan republic of nearly 18 million eligible voters is holding general elections this weekend to elect 275 members of the House of Representatives.

The polls will be held alongside provincial elections to elect 550 representatives to the regional assemblies.

Of the 2,412 candidates vying for 165 directly elected seats of the House of Representatives, 867 are independent, the Election Commission’s deputy spokesperson Rishi Ram Bhusal told EFE.

Some 999 independents are contesting for provincial assembly seats.

The electoral format of the Himalayan country – where a part of the seats is decided through a system of proportional representation based on votes received by the parties – has favored combining these “independent” candidates into new political groups.

The new contenders seek to challenge the hegemony of the ruling social-democratic Nepali Congress and the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), or CPN-UML, in the current political setup.

Popular TV presenter Rabbi Lamichhane has formed the Rastriya Swatantra Party while the Hamro Nepali Party has an engineer, Raj Ghimire, at the helm.

Both groups got registered in July for the upcoming elections.

“New and energetic faces must come forward in politics as the old and traditional parties have failed to deliver,” Suman Pandey, a businessman contesting from Nuwakot district for the Rastriya Swatantra Party, told EFE.

Voters appear to be swayed by the image of several of these newcomers and independents, coming from different professional backgrounds like medicine and engineering.

“I have always voted for the Nepali Congress in my life. My vote is going to the Rastriya Swatantra Party this time because the Congress has not walked the talk,” Dornacharya Ghimire, from Nepal’s Lumbini province, told EFE.

“It is high time that conscious voters teach a lesson to the major parties which have been using us as a mere vote bank,” the 65-year-old retired teacher said.

Analysts predict some disruption in the Nepalese political landscape because of the newcomers, with more than 60 parties in the fray.

Nonetheless, opinion polls indicate that the contest will eventually be between two traditional coalitions, the Congress party headed by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the CPN-UML led by his predecessor KP Sharma Oli.

The Himalayan nation went through a traumatic political transition, with the first outbreak of a decade-long civil war in 1996, which pitted Maoist guerrillas against the official forces of the then-Hindu monarchy.

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