On July 10 the Nepali parliament was dissolved by King Birendra following popular unrest directed at the Nepali Congress Party government. In the subsequent general elections on November 15, the Communist Party of Nepal, United Marxist Leninist (CPI-UML) emerged as the largest party in parliament. MADHAV NEPAL, CPI-UML general secretary, was interviewed for Green Left Weekly by SUJATHA FERNANDES and MICHAEL TARDIF.
Can you give us a summary of the election results so far?
We have the results for 203 constituencies. So far our party has gained 88 seats, the Nepali Congress has gained 80 seats, and the National Democratic Party has gained 21 seats. Out of the other left parties, the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party has gained four seats, the Nepal Goodwill Party has gained three and independents have gained seven seats.
The elections results and the scenario in parliament will be clear after the votes from the remaining constituencies have been counted. To form a government there is the need for 103 seats. But because of the rigging of the elections by the ruling party, there is going to be a protest by our party.
At various counting centres, the ruling party officials tried to move the results in their favour. Because of the strong weight in our favour and our strong organisation, they could not pull the majority in their favour. But they could still increase their number.
We have won more than 51% of the total popular vote. In the 1990 elections, the Nepali Congress was able to get only 37% of the popular vote. It is quite clear that we are the largest party. Being the single largest party in the parliament, we are in a position to form the government. But the question is how the government can be formed.
There are only two ways. One way is to form a minority government of our own party. The other option is to have a coalition with other parties. The second alternative is not so bright because other parties are expected to be in the opposition. We are in a position to seek the support of other parties.
How fair was the election process?
Actually there was a series of conspiracies planned against the Communist Party of Nepal. The popularity of the party amongst the people was so high that no-one could shake their faith in our party. The ruling party tried to rig the elections in many areas; they manipulated over 40 seats. But we were still successful because we have a strong mass base.
After we had received 83 votes and it was clear that the Nepali Congress Party was going to lose, the prime minister conceded defeat. Since then the number has become 88. Therefore we were able to overcome all of their obstacles.
The television news in Australia has shown some footage of mass rallies amongst the population. What has been the response so far of the people to the election victory?
About 100,000 people were there to celebrate the election victory. In the lead-up to the elections there were mass rallies and mass meetings all over the country. People attended our mass meetings in their thousands. Our leaders were among all of these people from east to west, from south to north, in all the district centres. Because of that all the capital cities were captured, including Kathmandu, and they are now all in the hands of the left parties. That is certainly the case in the west and east districts.
In the 1990 election we had quite a poor following in the west districts, but this time we gained 11 out of a total 18 seats from there. Once we take control of government, we will try to find out from where the conspiracy started and the people who were involved in all of these processes.
Has there been any indication of a response from the army or the monarchy in relation to the election victory?
They have not acted negatively towards us and are going to respect the verdict of the people. The gains we have made are secure.
Nepal's economy seems to be dependent on international funds, particularly through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Has there been any response as yet from international organisations to the victory of the Communist Party?
No, they are also favourable to us. The officials are responsive and cooperative to us. Because of the bad government, malpractices and corruption of the Nepalese Congress Party, the money was not used properly. But our government will utilise all of the foreign assistance in a proper way.
We hope that all of the foreign countries will be encouraged to invest here. We are capable, efficient and dedicated people. They should not be swayed by wrong news given by anyone.
There must be many social reforms that the party wishes to carry out. What are the main and immediate priorities?
One of the major reforms is the removal of corruption. To remove the practices of nepotism will be another thing. Thirdly, giving relief to the people will be a priority. Many people are in jail, many people have been charged with false political cases, they will be cleared of those charges.
All those who work will be renumerated, and the respect for work will be there. There will be a restructuring in all of our work. We also wish to implement a comprehensive land redistribution scheme. We put a human rights commission before the people, and having a commission of law, and control of corruption will be implemented.
In relation to the reforms, the population must now have fairly high expectations of the new government. What role do you see for the population itself in the implementation of many of the reforms, particularly in relation to land reform?
The people have high aspirations, but the resources are low and because we will be new in government we have no experience at all. We might not have complete knowledge about the complications there, but we have clear political vision, clear political determination and we hope that step by step we can do some work with the people so that soon they will feel that a new process of change has started.
But the situation being a hung parliament, we will be hampered by the opposition there. But we think that we are doing good for the people and the nation.
In relation to the reforms that you were talking about, do you see the population playing an active role in that process?
We will try to involve the masses in the political process. Without the participation of the people in the decision making process and the implementation process, we cannot mobilise our nation to move ahead. We have to create an environment of enthusiasm among the masses. We need the popular participation of the people. A grassroots democracy can be practised.