All hail the number gameAt a time when the country is struggling with implementing the new constitution, the present political vacuum is highly unfortunate
As the Parliament begins discussion on a vote of no confidence—jointly filed by the CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepali Congress—against the CPN-UML-led government, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is in a race against time to save his seat.
The ruling coalition was stripped off its majority after the Maoist Centre, the third largest party in the Parliament pulled out of the government on July 12.
Interestingly, this is the second time a UML prime minister is being put to test since the multi-party democracy in 1990. And on both the occasionsNepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba has been involved in pulling down the government.
While Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli stares at a vote of no confidence, commentators feel leaders have given birth to a dirty political culture in the name of democracy.
“In such sensitive times—especially after the Madhesi grievances, the unofficial neighbouring blockade, the devastating earthquakes—the unhealthy politics that we are witnessing is very unfortunate,” said former House Speaker Taranath Ranabhat.
“In fact these are the politicians who made the constitution and they are the same ones that are claiming that the constitution is not clear enough on the process,” Ranabhat told the Post. “In my time, we never had any problem with the process after a vote of no confidence was registered.”
The UML chairman will be the fifth prime minister since 1990 to be dragged into the battle of the numbers at the Parliament.
In 1995, an elected government under late UML leader Manmohan Adhikari faced a vote of no confidence just nine months after forming a government after the UML came victorious in the elections a year before. Ultimately, the NC and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party pulled down the government with majority votes.
Subsequently, the next government that was formed under then NC parliamentary party leader Sher Bahadur Deuba was tested a record three times. In 1996, even though Deuba managed to brush aside the first vote of no confidence against him, a second attempt to topple his government led to Deuba being declared in minority. When Deuba, in early 1997, stood up in Parliament to garner a vote of confidence, he was unsuccessful. The UML and the RPP (Lokendra Bahadur Chand-led faction) triumphed in their third attempt and Deuba was finally unseated.
The following government that was formed between UML and RPP under Chand was again pulled down in late 1997 by a vote of no confidence registered by the NC and a faction of RPP led by Surya Bahadur Thapa.
“The recent statute promulgated by these leaders has been made ambiguous to favour themselves. In a parliamentary system it is natural to see such votes being put forward, but the political tendency that has been cultivated solely points to the power game that these leaders are playing,” said political analyst Krishna Khanal.
“It comes as a surprise that there is so much commotion regarding the constitutional provisions. This is a political issue and not a matter for legal experts to decide. All statements made recently to claim that a new government won’t be formed are subjective to an individual’s personal gains,” Khanal said.
More than a dozen legal experts, during consultations with political leaders from NC and the Maoist Centre, claimed that there was absolutely no constitutional ambiguity on forming a new government by pushing Oli out through a vote of no confidence under the transitional provision. They concluded that Article 298 is clear enough about the formation of a new government. But, a similar gathering of experts under PM Oli stated that there is not a clear provision regarding the formation of a new government if the incumbent one is voted out.
This week, major political parties were at loggerheads over which discussion to initiate first—the vote of no confidence or the budget related bills. The NC and Maoist Centre insisted on putting the discussion on the vote of no confidence in priority, while the ruling UML were adamant on getting the budget related bills passed first. On one hand Oli tried to convince the opposition that if the bills get passed he might as well just resign from the government, and on the other hand the opposition claimed that it was up to the new government to be formed to take a call on any bill. In the end, the bills were put on discussion, but rejected.
Commentators believe that the House Speaker is always decisive on parliamentary business, and that there was no reason to drag him/her to controversy. Regardless, the House has the duty to give importance to the bills or acts sent to them. Since the House Speaker failed to convince leaders on the matter, and that a special work plan brought about by Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar already notified parliamentarians that the first business would be to discuss on the no vote of confidence registered against the government, analysts say her decision must have been be respected. “The Maoists were in major quandary. If they were to not vote first on the budget related bills, it implied that they are rejecting the budget which was brought when they were a major partner in the government. But if they had voted on it first then again it showed that the government is still in majority,” stated Khanal.
The political vacuum felt during such times is unfortunate given the sensitivity of matters Nepal is facing. At a time when we are struggling with reconstruction and rehabilitation work, some Tarai based forces are disowning the new constitution and with the responsibility to hold three elections—local, provincial and federal—in the next 18 months before the Parliament automatically dissolves, PM Oli should gracefully resign if he wants to be fondly remembered for making us citizens at least dream of a prosperous nation.