Lessons unlearnedWith the recent faux pas, Oli’s legitimacy to govern has come into question.
Oli is at it again. Earlier this year, the prime minister had faced a setback when his attempts to enforce two ordinances, on provisions regarding new party registration, and on Constitutional Council, flopped. A sensible leader would have learnt a lesson. But Oli does not seem to be the one who takes lessons from his own experience. On Tuesday, he sent yet another ordinance on the Constitutional Council Act (Functions, Duties and Procedures) 2010 to the Office of the President, seeking amendments to at least two clauses that would allow the Council to convene a meeting if a majority of the existing members attend the meeting and make a decision on the basis of majority. And as expected, President Bidya Devi Bhandari spent no time in promulgating the ordinance.
Having used a sledgehammer to crack the intra-party tussle nut, Oli should have anticipated the opposition this decision would invite, and yet, he went ahead with his decision. But it did not take long either for him to seek a withdrawal of the ordinance after widespread opposition from within the party and beyond. It may look like the drama ended within 24 hours and everything is back to normal. Olis’ idiosyncratic political manoeuvres have, in fact, brought the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
Not only has KP Oli failed to fulfil the duties of the highest executive office of the country, but he has also dragged the Office of the President to this intra-party rat race for political influence. The Office of the President was envisioned to be a non-partisan institution. Regrettably, that role has come under question as the President has been seen to micromanage the internal politics of the ruling Nepal Communist Party. Along with the President's office, the country itself has been held hostage for far too long. And this is not acceptable in a democratic polity.
The ongoing drama is not a question of what will happen to the ordinance now that Oli and Dahal have decided to request the President to withdraw it. The question is why Oli has been using one ordinance after another as the weapon against his opponents. This is a direct attack on the spirit of the constitution, and an insult to the historic mandate he and his party received to run the government for five years. To be fair to Oli, he has failed to receive full support from within his party as his rival camp is committed to undoing him at every step. But that is no excuse to drag the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
Provisions of checks and balances form a cardinal pillar of democracy, but Oli has repeatedly sought to disturb that balance. This will ultimately lead to democratic politics losing its legitimacy. True, Oli has been cornered in the party, but his tactics to remain in power by any means hurt the core democratic values. The prime minister has continually bullied his way through the constitutional process. Oli’s bullish behaviour has called into question his legitimacy to govern despite the huge electoral mandate he earned.