The electoral alliance of the UML and the Maoists swept that election, and the two parties united in 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). There was hope at last that with its strong majority in Parliament and an egalitarian agenda (at least in theory) the Communists would work for the welfare of the people.
It took barely a year for those hopes to be dashed. The NCP’s two leaders, K P Oli of the UML and Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the Maoists, had a secret arrangement to take turns at prime ministership, but after Oli survived a second kidney transplant, it seems the deal fell through. The power struggle between these two alpha males ultimately brought down the government, and led to the NCP splitting into the UML and Maoist Centre again.
Oli tried twice to dissolve Parliament in violation of Constitutional provisions, and was struck down both times by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Cholendra SJB Rana. It is a supreme irony that even as the country marks Constitution Day, the country’s Chief Justice is under semi-house arrest for what appears to be political vendetta. Rana was prevented from going to his office this week after the dissolution of the Parliament that was debating an impeachment motion against him.
Rana was not known for unblemished integrity, but had disallowed unlawful dissolution of Parliament. In the end, his staunchest defender has turned out to be the very K P Oli whose government was ousted by Rana’s Supreme Court verdict last year.
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None of this is surprising. The practice of distributing appointments among short-term allies (bhag-banda) has been the curse of Nepali politics for decades. In 2017, Oli and Dahal divided up between themselves appointments of the office of President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, other constitutional bodies, chief ministers, and even ambassadorships. The division of the spoils got even more extreme since the present coalition came to power since all five members had to be appeased.
Neither Parliament nor the Constitution could meet the people’s expectations for better governance, equity and justice because both were held hostage by inter- and intra-party feuds. Their power struggles have been played out in Parliament, where protagonists have blatantly violated the Constitution to gain the upper hand. Ordinances were weaponised as ordnances.
Nepal’s federal Constitution was supposed to devolve power to local bodies, they have instead let lack of accountability trickle down to the grassroots. It was meant to decentralise decision-making, but decentralised corruption instead.
The November elections offer hope to change all this. It is now up to the people to oust the six elderly gentlemen men who have monopolised, misruled and abused power for decades and bring in a new crop of representatives who understand what the Constitution stands for.
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