Emergence and Consolidation of Multiparty System in Nepal: Causes and Consequences
The last few elections have shown that multi-party system is set to consolidate in Nepal. The article will first show the establishment of multiparty system in recent decade by calculating ‘the effective number of political parties’ (as against number of political parties contesting elections or winning seats) – political parties that have influence in governance and policy making. I will analyse political parties’ strength in the central/federal parliament since 1959 (1959, 1991, 1994, 1999, 2008, 2012, 2017 and 2022). The effective number of parties was less than three in the first four elections while it has been more than four after that.
Based on relevant literature, I will investigate the role of social diversity (Horowitz 1985, Van Cott 2005, Chandra 2005, Lijphart 1999) and electoral methods (Lijphart 1999, Duverger 1964) in the emergence of new political parties, erosion of larger and older parties, and subsequent consolidation of multiparty system in later years.
The paper will trace the rise of ‘identity’ political parties to examine the role of socio-cultural diversity. Rise and expansion of identity parties in later elections will establish the role of socio-cultural factor, and vice versa. I will demonstrate the impact of electoral method by comparing party systems before and after the introduction of partial proportional electoral (PR) method in 2008 (1959, 1991, 1994, 1999 when elections were held under the first past the post -FPTP – method vs. 2008, 2012, 2017, 2022 elections when both PR and FPTP methods were employed) as well as compare the party systems due to the FPTP and PR methods by analysing the impact of the two methods when both methods were employed (2008, 2012, 2017 and 2022 elections). The comparison between 2008 and 2012 versus 2017 and 2022 elections when the PR elected nearly 60 and 40 percent of seats respectively will help to further confirm (or not) the role of PR method, or even the role of socio-cultural diversity. If the effective number of parties continues to increase despite the reduction of PR in the latter two elections, we can say that the socio-cultural diversity may be the more salient factor.
Multi-party system theoretically makes it possible for more unstable governments but the paper will show that government instability occurred under two-party systems as well in Nepal, even though it was less frequent. The government instability was less under the West European/German model of reformed parliamentary system (2017 onwards) compared to the Westminster parliamentary system of earlier years. Further, the paper will argue that the substantive (compared to tokenistic) representation of the society in the parliament may have deepened democracy by ensuring substantive voice as well as reduced non-systemic (insurgency, violent activities, separatist movements) activities in the country, at least for the time being.
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