Nepal’s New Alliance – All For One Now?

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Nepal’s jumbo alliance of 22 parties now pledged to participate in or support a new government will hold a clear majority in the Assembly. Only the Maoists and the dogmatic Peasants and Workers Party will sit in opposition. But the new government’s majority will be far from comfortable and probably short-lived as well.

All of the major parties in the alliance are divided internally. Last week’s meeting of the central committee of the MJF, the critical swing party representing mostly southern districts, deteriorated into a fistfight over whether to support the UML and NC or side with the Maoists. The two top MJF leaders are still issuing contradictory statements about whether the party will join the government or support it from outside.

Other parties’ splits are equally deep though usually not as colorfully expressed, but the MJF’s instability and critical role for the alliance make it the weakest part of the deal. And if harmony within parties is so hard, it’s unlikely that such a broad alliance – from vehement communists to supporters of the monarchy – will agree on much of anything important.

A cobbled-up coalition of bitter rivals probably won’t deliver development, security and a timely constitution. But it will immediately provide a giant potful of political plums for the participating parties, from ministerial berths and civil-service jobs to the ability to repay old favors and extract new ones.

That opportunity has brought this coalition together. Cash may have had a part too. On Monday the Maoist caretaker finance minister alleged that vast amounts of money had changed hands over the weekend to create this alliance. That would make the process so far not only difficult and time-consuming but also expensive.

Now for the hard part. A jumbo alliance will require a jumbo cabinet, with something for everyone. The wrangling between the parties over the division of the spoils will likely take longer than forming the coalition did. While the Maoist blockade of the Constituent Assembly may eventually be the stumbling block to seating a new government, it’s just showmanship now.

In fact, it may not matter much what the Maoists do after a new government takes office either. The huge alliance of deeply divided parties will fall apart by itself, and sooner rather than later. Few players in the political arena will have illusions otherwise, and so rather than one for all, this coalition will probably be every man for himself for as long as it lasts.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.