Commentary on CPN UML 10th General Convention

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CPN UML’s tenth General Convention began on November 29. KP Sharma Oli’s desired to consensually select all prominent party positions and central committee members, limiting opposition and competitiveness. Bhim Rawal has yet contested the position of party chair and other few candidates for other party posts. Nevertheless, Oli selected senior vice-chair, secretaries, general secretary, deputy secretary, and most of the central committee members. Oli’s blatant propelling for selecting party positions over a fair election reflects his lack of concern for democratic practices and ideological debates. It also depicts his wish to be the party chairperson unopposed. This indicates the absence of political culture within the party.

The Statute Convention

CPN UML had a twofold convention. It earlier organized a statute convention on October 1 to 3. The Statute convention centered around Oli, and his political blueprint was largely unanimously approved. The Statute convention was conducted separately as an attempt to concentrate authority. This is evident by the amendment of the retirement age to 70 years so that Oli can be re-appointed as the Party president. It was clear at the statute convention that Oli would also coerce his decisions during the party’s National Convention.

Purpose of the Convention

Firstly, since Nepal’s largest party had undergone a three-way split, the Convention became even more critical for the egotist Oli to convey that it is still the largest and most powerful party in Nepal. The Convention was strategically located at Chitwan. It holds symbolic significance, as it is the home district of CPN- Maoist Center President Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The entire Convention that tracked so much attention was orchestrated as a manifestation of power.

Secondly, Oli is following in the footsteps of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leader Xi Jin Pings. Oli is also adopting Xi’s “United Front” policy claiming all the power within the party and envisioning himself as the sole leader capable of leading the party. Furthermore, Xi made a significant effort to consolidate his position within the CCP, running numerous campaigns to reaffirm his leadership, undermining many of his vocal rivals, and instilling his policies and ideology into the party’s documents, fortifying his position as the party’s undisputed leader for a lifetime. A similar pattern can be observed in Oli’s consecutive actions. The Convention thus becomes crucial to achieve the sole leadership that Oli desired.

Oli’s Consolidation of Power

Under the veil of forming new leadership through consensus, Oli attempted to place leaders of his choice in all critical positions of office-bearers. A Central committee meeting was held to amend the party statute to increase the number of office bearers from 15 to 19 and central committee members from 225 to 301. According to the observers, this was done to preserve consensus for critical positions. The amended statute has provisioned one senior vice chair, six vice-chairs, one general secretary, three deputy general secretaries.

Prior to the eighth general Convention in 2009, the CPN UML centralized power structure with an authoritative general secretary wielding executive power and a symbolic party president. Nevertheless, 2009’s general Convention espoused collective leadership, including vice-chairpersons, deputy secretary, and secretaries. The primary intent was to decentralize the consolidation of power and have a collective decision-making body of office-bearers.

In the ninth general Convention, Oli introduced a few secretary positions, preserving the provisions from the former general Convention, which elected Oli as party president. All the posts in the party were selected through a fair democratic process. In the 10th general Convention, Oli maintained the shared power structure by having a body of office bearers; however, he has formed his personality cult by handpicking the leadership in the party, engaging in dominating strategy.

Party members allied with Oli have backed his endeavor to select the leadership by consensus, claiming that most party leaders and members desire the same thing. As per them, competition amongst leaders would lead to rivalry and internal divisions. Oli is attempting totalitarianism in the guise of unity. However, Oli’s authoritarian tendencies have enraged other leaders and cadres of the party.

After failing to forge a consensus, the party opted to begin the election process. For the next five years, Oli won the party presidency by securing 1,837 votes, whereas Rawal only obtained 223 votes. The significant difference in the votes between the two candidates implies Oli’s centralization of political power and clout within the party.

Previously, Oli had removed Madhav Kumar Nepal from “senior leader” to minimize his political power. The CPN UML got divided shortly after, and Nepal founded a separate party (CPN Unified Socialist). Apart from consolidating control, Oli’s goal during the general Convention was to preclude a competing faction with the party from rising. Meanwhile, Oli’s faction leaders, such as Subash Nembang, Bishnu Poudel, Lal Babu Pandit, have been irked by Oli’s conduct. This is expected to lead to intra-party strife until the end of Oli’s tenure as party chairperson in 2026.

Essentially, the tenth UML convention was a step ahead in reinforcing Oli’s totalitarianism inside the party dynamics, shifting the party away from the notion of collective leadership and more towards it all being dominated by a single person, displaying fascist characteristics.

Inclusivity in CPN-UML

Further, the domination of Khas Arya remains in CPN UML. The three most powerful positions are assumed by people representing the Khas Arya community. Two women, one Dalit, and one Madhesi community leader, were nominated as office bearers. There are no Tharu, Muslim, or Madhesi women in the UML’s office-bearers. Padma Aryal was elected as the secretary, while Ashtalakshmi Shakya was selected as the Vice President.  The women nominated are not from marginalized communities. The party failed to form an inclusive structure. The CPN-UML, renowned for its anti-federalism and anti-inclusion position, had the chance to redeem itself, but it chose not to do so.

Nonetheless, the selection of youths for central posts has been viewed positively. The choice of new generation politicians Gokarna Bista and Yogesh Bhattarai as CPN-UML Secretaries is a positive move toward transitioning the party leadership to the younger generation.

Office Bearers

ChairmanKP Sharma Oli (1 male)
Senior vice-chairmanIshwor Pokharel (1male)
Vice-ChairmanFive male, one female, two indigenous group
General SecretaryOne male
Deputy General SecretaryThree male, one indigenous group
SecretarySix male, one female, one Dalit

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