Mao is the Winter of Our Discontent, in Nepal

Prasant Jha in openDemocracy:

The results of the general election in Nepal on 10 April 2008, won overwhelmingly by the Maoists – officially the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – have come as a complete shock. Many people thought the former armed rebels would be a distant third, winning perhaps fifteen-to-twenty of the 240 seats directly elected to the constituent assembly under a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system (335 of the remainder are elected under proportional representation). Some argued that the Maoists would do better than conventional wisdom in the capital Kathmandu suggested, giving them about thirty-to-forty of the FPTP seats. Only a few voices sensed the people’s desperate yearning for change, the Maoist base among the young and marginalised, and flagged the possibility of the party coming in second – or first.

Yet the outcome – with the Maoists taking 114 out of the 208 seats declared at the time of writing – has taken even the Maoists by surprise. Why did all of us get it so wrong? It is important that no elections had taken place since May 1999; recent voting patterns were thus non-existent, and it was difficult to make sense of a country that had completely changed over the past decade. An armed rebellion, a generational change, new leftwing politics, ethnic consciousness, and changing aspirations – all these should have complicated the easy predictions.