Bhandari and Pun lobby for 2nd termPresident Bidya Devi Bhandari and Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun lobbying to repeat their terms in office has put the left alliance in a dilemma.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun lobbying to repeat their terms in office has put the left alliance in a dilemma.
A section of the media came to know their intent to continue in office at Bhandari’s dinner diplomacy recently.
Although CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Centre) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal seem to favour the President’s request, the decision is yet to be formally discussed in the two-party bloc. The alliance is currently discussing sharing of power in the new government as well as party merger.
Party leaders say opinions are divided on the move to continue with the current President and the Vice President.
Within the UML, Chairman Oli seems “positive” on continuing Bhandari as the head of state. Leaders close to Madhav Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal appear to be against it. Former prime minister Khanal has expressed his interest for the top post.
Khanal reiterated his claim on Tuesday when he said, “It is not good to repeat the
same person in the top position.” Khanal made this comment while speaking to journalists at the Tribhuvan International Airport while returning from Iran.
Since the left alliance is set to form the new government, President Bhandari wants to continue with the existing arrangement—the President from the UML and the Vice President from the Maoist Centre for one more term. She claims both could not enjoy their positions for a full-term. They were elected to the post in October 2015.
On Saturday, President Bhandari held an informal dinner meeting with Oli and Dahal for about five hours. She reportedly sought assurance from both the leaders to back her and VP Pun for a second term.
Dahal gave hints of what transpired between the three of them on Saturday when he met with student leaders on Sunday. According to student leaders, Dahal told them that President Bhandari was keen for another term as well.
Sources claim that the President also tried to appease Dahal by suggesting that the two leaders expedite the unification process by sharing the two executive positions—the PM and the chairperson of the unified party—for which the UML was reluctant. UML leaders want to retain both the prime minister and the unified party’s chairmanship.
President Bhandari’s personal secretary Bhesh Raj Adhikary confirmed the meeting with Oli and Dahal on Saturday, but refused to give details.
The UML-Maoist Centre alliance is yet to formally discuss who would be the new President and the Vice President.
Sources say all key posts—President, Vice President, prime minister and the Speaker—could be finalised in a package deal while finalising power- sharing in the new government and the unified party.
The UML and the Maoist Centre are expected to expedite discussion on forming the government after the National Assembly (NA) election takes place on Wednesday. With the UML certain to get the PM’s post, the Maoist Centre could demand the President and the party chair.
After knowing that the top leaders of the two parties were “considering” extension of the terms of Bhandari and Pun, former Speaker Onasari Gharti has also started lobbying for retaining her previous constitutional position so as to balance the power equation.
UML leaders express dissatisfaction over the constitutional head’s greed for power. They say this could create problems in the left movement.
UML Deputy General Secretary Ghanashyam Bhusal says, “Lack of transparency in party decisions kills both internal and external democracy. Power-sharing deals within a small faction of the party won’t benefit the left movement in the country.”
Leaders say this will pose a serious challenge for the left alliance to manage leaders once the two parties merge. “There are several top leaders in the two parties who need to be managed in the unified party. If one position is repeated, questions would be raised why other positions cannot be repeated,” said a senior UML leader.
Earlier, President Bhandari organised a gathering for Dahal’s family members at her official residence Sheetal Niwas on January 12. Prior to that, she held lunch and dinner meetings with influential leaders of the left alliance.
Vice President Pun had also met UML Chair Oli as soon as he returned from Bangkok after completing his regular health check. During the meeting, Pun had reportedly sought extensions for both the top posts.
“The downfall of the left alliance will begin right from that point if the alliance decides to repeat them,” said Mani Thapa, a member of the Maoist Centre headquarters, adding that people have a lot of expectations from the alliance on good governance and value-based politics.