Political ball now in Nepal’s Supreme Court
An alliance of five political parties and factions opposed to Prime Minister K P Oli’s dissolution of the House and call for early elections have approached the Supreme Court with a writ petition to have the move overturned.
The five who went to the Supreme Court on Monday included the Nepali Congress (NC), Maoist Centre (MC), the Yadav-Bhattarai faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) and dissidents from Oli’s own UML, as well as the 146 signatories.
PM Oli's UML immediately evicted 11 rebel members including Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalnath Khanal and Bhim Rawal from the party, and asked 12 others for a clarification within 24 hours.
The writ petition asks the Court to rule that since Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC had staked his claim to form the new government with a majority in Parliament, he should be appointed prime minister. It also asks that since the House dissolution was un-constitutional, it should be reinstated.
All signatories from the five groups were present at the Court to register the petition, led by Deuba, MC Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, UML’s Madhav Kumar Nepal and JSP’s Upendra Yadav, and Durga Poudel of the Janmorcha. However, only 23 of the 26 who were originally with the Nepal faction signed.
Meanwhile, the main JSP led by Mahanta Thakur and Rajendra Mahato has decided to join K P Oli’s election government after being assured of seven ministerial portfolios. The party took the decision after the Cabinet got President Bhandari’s seal of approval on an ordinance passing a bill that would grant citizenship by descent to children of Nepali parents — a long-standing demand of the Mahdesi community.
Although Oli and his party had vehemently opposed the bill last year, saying that it would allow Indians to marry Nepalis and for their children to be citizens, it appears that he has agreed to it now to save his government. The other JSP demand for the release of MP Resham Chaudhary, who has been detained for the massacre of policemen Tikapur in August 2015, has not yet been met.
The latest political crisis in Nepal in the middle of a raging Covid-19 second wave started when President Bidya Devi Bhandari gave parties in Parliament 21 hours on Wednesday to stake their claim to form the next government because Prime Minister Oli said he could not get majority support from MPs.
However, after the NC, MC and the JSP and UML factions collected 149 signatures, Oli rushed to Shital Niwas to put forward support of all members of his UMl and the JSP, even the ones who had sides with the opposition coalition. This was seen by many as a violation of the constitution.
President Bhandari on Saturday 2AM dissolved Parliament and called fresh elections in November, because she said neither side had fulfilled the requirement to form a new government.
In the past two days, the prime minister and president have come under blistering attack from not just the opposition, but a cross section of civil society and media commentators. The student wing of the NC has been staging small protests in the capital despite the lockdown, burning Prime Minister Oli and President Bhandari in effigy.
Nepali Times discussed recent political developments with Nepal’s politicians.
"There was no choice but to dissolve parliament"
Niru Pal, CPN (UML)
PM Oli was not able to get a vote of confidence per article 76 (4) of the constitution, and as such, Parliament was not able to come up with a solution. The opposition had been setting up constant roadblocks against PM Oli, all the while failing to establish a majority to form a government. Consequently, a government could not be formed as per Article 76 (5) of the Constitution either.
We got word that MPs from our party had signed in favour of Sher Bahadur Deuba to become prime minister as if this were an independent political system. However, 11 of them have issued a statement alleging misuse of signatures. Therefore the government had no choice but to dissolve Parliament.
I find some absurd and unnecessary criticism of PM Oli. Those critics are also well aware that the President is not an executive, and had no grounds to block the recommendation of the caretaker Prime Minister. The President would have made the same decision even if it were Sher Bahadur Deuba in PM Oli’s position. She has decided based on the spirit of the constitution.
"An Oli-led election will self-destruct"
Ganesh Shah, Maoist Centre
PM Oli’s loyalists and his opponents have become polarised. The opposition was unable to take unified and effective action against PM Oli’s unconstitutional move, which is the result of his ambition and arrogance. The first parliament dissolution was a blow to our Constitution, but this dissolution might be its death knell.
Civil society and the backers of the Constitution and democracy must fight against this political regression with a unified front. The legal process will not be enough — Parliament must be re-established through political initiative. The chances of an election taking place are slim. Moreover, an election under Oli’s leadership will be self-destructive. Any election at this point must be held only after a re-instated Parliament elects a new Prime Minister.
"The PM always wanted to dissolve parliament"
Rachana Khadka, CPN (UML)
PM Oli always wanted to dissolve parliaments and he did — twice. Even after the Supreme Court reinstated the lower House in January, all of his recent political moves showed he was going to do it again. The decision to dissolve a Parliament in which he once held a majority is ironic. It goes against the spirit of the Constitution.
Moreover, the legitimacy of the President’s office has also come into question. We have a system of checks and balances to ensure that our political institutions hold one another accountable if mistakes are made. As such, the office of the President does not exist to do the prime minister’s bidding.
Hundreds of Nepalis are dying due to Covid-19 every day. The primary focus at this time should have been to save lives. Dissolving the parliament at a time like this is like dancing over the pyres of Nepalis. The state elections in India contributed to the spread of the virus over there. We should have learned our lesson from our neighbours.
"Parliament dissolution is constitutional"
Ashok Vyanju, President, Municipal Association
This is the result of the inability of a democratically elected institution to facilitate nation-building, inter-political coordination and balance.
The dissolution of Parliament and announcement of elections came after it was not possible to form a government constitutionally. The decision is therefore absolutely constitutional. The election will make it possible to pursue a fresh mandate after our political problems are resolved.
Some have wrongly questioned the possibility of an election during a pandemic. India, South Korea, Japan, and other countries successfully conducted elections in the middle of the pandemic. We must be able to combat the virus and resolve our political problems simultaneously.
"Legal and political measures must be followed"
Dila Sangroula, Nepali Congress
The incumbent Prime Minister had to take a vote of confidence within 30 days or resign as per article 76 (3) of the constitution. Even then, the NC, MC, and JSP coalition along with the Nepal faction of the UML had collected 149 signatures to form a new government following the president’s directive.
However, the signatures to appoint Sher Bahadur Deuba the Prime Minister were considered illegitimate. The subsequent decision to dissolve parliament at midnight was unconstitutional, undemocratic and reactionary. Legal and political countermeasures must be pursued to undo it.
The announcement of mid-term elections during a pandemic, when Nepalis are dying due to a scarcity of oxygen and ventilators, is nothing but a political drama staged by Oli in an attempt to hold on to power. Why are we enabling this instead of trying to save lives?
"A free and fair election must be ensured"
Mohan Shrestha, RPP
The two major Communist parties failed to deliver on the promises made when they were elected into government. NC and RPP are not to blame for their failure. As such, it is better to go to the polls than to continue like this. All of our political parties should establish an understanding as we move forward, and a free and fair election must be ensured.
We are in favour of the election, and an official statement from the RPP will come soon. However, we have no involvement in the polarised politics on both sides, and will not participate in any anti-Oil protests.
West Bengal and the United States conducted elections during the pandemic. We must follow all safety protocols pertaining to the pandemic and do the same.
"We must form a new party"
Asta Laxmi Shakya, CPN (UML)
After the Supreme Court overturned the NCPO, we came back to UML. But (PM Oli) did not give us any importance. He is still ignoring us. We cannot rely on Oli, we have to forge a new path. We have to form a new party, and not prolong this uncertainty.