Commentary | Indecisive election results: Now the battle for new government

Nepal's federal parliament constitutes 275 members of parliament. As many as 138 lawmakers are necessary to establish a majority and claim the premiership. So who will lead Nepal’s next government?

Dhan Bahadur Khadka

  • Read Time 4 min.

After Nepal’s federal parliament election results have nearly confirmed that there will be a hung parliament, two major political parties–Nepali Congress and CPN-UML–have put themselves in the race of a different kind: Who of them will be able to secure backing from other parties so that the government can be formed under their leadership? 

The results clearly show that the country will have hung parliament, with no party having an absolute majority to form and run the new government. 

The electoral alliance did not help. 

At least five ruling parties–Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Center), CPN (United Socialist), Rastriya Janamorcha and Loktantrik Sawajwadi Party–had formed the democrat-communist alliance to bring more parliamentary seats into their fold. Similarly, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) had also formed a loose alliance comprising Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Janata Samajwadi Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal and some fringe parties at regional level.

The outcome has not favored either alliance.  Neither an individual party nor the alliance has secured enough seats to form the new government. 

Who won how many seats?

As of Wednesday afternoon, vote counting results from 161 constituencies out of 165 have been declared. 

The vote counting process in one constituency is underway while the counting process has been halted in three constituencies in Dolakha, Bajura and Syangja over the electoral fraud row. 

Nepali Congress is leading the vote count tally with 54 seats under the first-past-to-the-post system followed by CPN-UML and Maoist-Center that have secured 44 and 17 seats, respectively. 

CPN (Unified Socialist) has garnered 10 seats while three political forces Janata Samajwadi Party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Rashtriya Swatantra Party have got 7 seats each. 

Loktantrik Samajwadi Party has secured four seats while newly formed Nagarik Unmukti Party has garnered three seats. 

Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, Janamat Party and Rashtriya Janamorcha each have secured one seat while independent candidates have won from five electoral constituencies. 

Indications of PR votes

Vote count tally under the proportional representation (PR) category of the federal parliament elections follow the same trend. Out of 10.07 million votes counted until Wednesday afternoon, CPN-UML is leading with 2.7 million votes followed by Nepali Congress that has secured 2.56 million votes. 

CPN (Maoist-Center), Rashtriya Swatantra Party, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party have obtained 1.14 million, 1.09 million and 0.57 million votes, respectively. 

Janata Samajbadi Party and Janamat Party have secured 402 and 367 thousands votes, respectively. The CPN (Unified Socialist) party is still struggling to ensure the status of national party. 

Nepal’s election laws require a political party to cross the threshold of three percent of total valid votes to get the status of national party. And the party’s votes under the proportional representation system will have no meaning if it fails to cross the minimum threshold.

Uncertainty everywhere

To Nepali Congress leaders, however, look convinced that the parties in the ruling alliance together will be able to secure enough seats to form the government. As such, they have started lobbying for the post of prime minister. But vote counting in the PR category shows that they might not be able to win the number of seats required to form the government.

Given the current trend and tally, Nepali Congress is likely to win 32 seats under the PR category. Together with FPTP seats, NC is likely to secure 87 seats.    Maoist Center is likely to have a total of 31 seats and Unified Socialist is less likely to secure any PR seats unless they secure enough votes to fulfill the criteria for national party status. 

Given the existing situation, these three parties in the alliance are likely to secure a total of 128 seats–ten seats short of the 138 seats required to form the government. 

Adding Loktantrik Samajwadi’s four seats and Rastriya Janamorcha’s one seat to it, it will only be 133. Even if the ruling alliance clinches victory in the three constituencies (where vote counting is yet to start, the total number will not be more than 136.  Ruling alliance may have to reach out, or woo, the independents or the fringe parties for two more seats.

Political force like the Rastriya Swatantra Party is likely to become a kingmaker and the ruling alliance is likely to secure its support. But RSP has already ruled out the possibility of joining the government under the leadership of ‘former prime ministers.’ Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) is less likely to join the fray for it was in alliance with CPN-UML. And there is less likelihood of Janata Samajwadi Party being roped in for it broke away the alliance on the eve of elections.

Ruling alliance is looking to woo the Nagarik Unmukti Party with four seats. It has even initiated the talks with Resham Chaudhary, who is serving a jail term on charge of masterminding the Tikapur massacre, but is a de facto leader of NUP.  But for this, the alliance has to ensure Chaudhary’s amnesty, which he has been demanding. Bringing NUP to its fold could also help the ruling alliance to form governments in Sudur Paschim and Karnali provinces.

The leaders of the ruling alliance are also trying to woo the Janamat Party–the new force led by CK Raut. But the leaders of this party have staked claims on the government leadership in Madhesh province. The parties in the ruling alliance look intent on taking government leadership of Madesh by themselves.

Prabhu Shah’s group has won two seats.  He could be instrumental in helping the ruling alliance to secure 138 seats for government formation.

Can UML do it?

CPN-UML and the parties associated with it in loose alliance fall far short of 138 seats. But if ever this camp is to lead the government, UML chair KP Oli is sure to stake the claim. In that case, NSP is not going to support him as it has already declared. The group led by Prabhu Shah is not likely to join the government under Oli’s leadership for he severed ties with UML on the election eve over the differences with Oli.

Perhaps aware of these complexities, Oli made a telephone call to Maoist Center chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal last Thursday and proposed a rapprochement. But Dahal has shown no sign of staying out of the current alliance.

Within Nepali Congress, leadership change has become a fiercely discussed issue. If the Congress elects Gagan Thapa over Sher Bahadur Deuba in the parliamentary party election, power equation and alliance formation might change. But in that case, there is a speculation in political circle, Dahal, given his track record of standing against the idea of leadership handover, might rather accept the leadership of Oli. 

Nothing has become impossible in Nepali politics over the last many years, especially when it comes to making and breaking the governments.