In with the new, out with (some of) the old
Rabi Lamichhane’s Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) has emerged as the most unexpected winner of the recently concluded general elections for a party formed just 141 days before voting day.
Most political parties find it difficult to establish themselves even after decades of existence, but the RSP won seven direct seats in the federal parliament and received over 1.13 million votes under the Proportional Representation (PR) mechanism.
However, analysts are quick to point out, since the RSP solely banked on voter disillusionment over the mainstream political parties it will have a difficult time establishing its relevance in future. Indeed, the fresh-faced candidates also rode on the independent wave following the successes of the likes of Balen Shah and Harka Sampang who were elected mayors of Kathmandu and Dharan in the May local election.
“The people have been frustrated to an extent that they had already made up their minds to vote for new faces which is why so many people chose the RSP without really understanding their philosophy or ideology,” says Bharatpur-based political commentator Prem Rimal.
Read also: The Nepali people have spoken, Sonia Awale
The success of the RSP has many questioning if the party is a national party at all, or just an expression of urban disenchantment. The elections was a battle between traditional vote bank politics and citizens excercising individual choice, and the fact that the Nepali Congress (NC) and UML still dominate means vote banks are still important.
Looking at the RSP’s performance under the First Past The System (FPTP), it received a significant number of votes in 13 constituencies with the highest in Chitwan-1 and 2, Lalitpur-3, Rupandehi-2 and Nawalparasi East-1. RSP candidates also received a fairly good number of votes in Jhapa-1, 4 and 5, Morang-1 and 6, Chitwan-3, Nawalparasi West-1, Rupandehi-1, Dang-1, 2 and 3, Kathmandu-2, 6, 7, 8 and 9, Nuwakot-2, Kaski-1, 2 and 3, and Sunsari-1 and 2.
The RSP has been elected in seven of these constituencies with the party chair Rabi Lamichhane receiving the most votes at 49,264 from Chitwan-2. This is 34,000 more than what former health minister Umesh Shrestha of the NC contesting as a governing coalition candidate received.
Read also: Nepal poll results signal upset, Sonia Awale
On the other hand, despite losing in Morang and Sunsari in Province 1, the RSP managed to rack up a significant number of votes from the constituencies. “People in Morang and Sunsari have long been dissatisfied with the old political parties and this disenchantment doesn’t take long to be converted into votes,” says Biratnagar-based political scientist and professor Subhaga Gautam.
During Toshima Karki’s door-to-door campaign in Lalitpur-3 people said they were done with the old crop of politicians and their non-performance. A middle-aged Lalitpur local told her: "The UML, Congress, and Maoists have doomed the country. I hope for your win but do not become like them once you get to power.”
Economic analyst Manikar Karki says people are of the mindset to choose anyone new as long as they are not the old leaders of the mainstream parties. “At any cost, out with the old, in with the new is what the people have said out loud,” he adds.
Read also: Back to the future, Santa Gaha Magar
The RSP similarly secured 14,000 votes in Rupandehi-1 and 25,000 in Rupandehi -2. Analyst Karki, who is a resident of Butwal says this is primarily due to the dissatisfaction of people with the incumbent and because the older parties had not filed a new candidate.
“With the RSP not stating their political agenda clearly, it seems the people have voted for them without understanding their policies or principles,” warns Karki. “The votes received by the RSP is just an expression of anger, we can’t call it a wave just yet.”
Bishwa Sigdel, a sociologist from Pokhara, says that he is surprised that the RSP managed to win so many votes from his area in a short period but credits it to the people who wanted something new since each democratic movement.
He adds: “People in Kaski have rejected the old leaders who they consider corrupt and incompetent. The RSP has been successful because of Rabi Lamichhane’s popularity and its anti-corruption stance.”
Translated from the Nepali original published on himalkhabar.com
Read more: The past is foretold in Nepal poll results, Shristi Karki