How KP Sharma Oli’s authoritarian politics bid boomeranged on himHouse dissolution move turned out to be a trap for Oli, as he is set to lose prime minister’s post and even likely to be reduced to playing second fiddle either to Deuba or Dahal.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli until a few days ago appeared confident–he was telling his party members that the House won’t be reinstated at any cost and encouraging them to devote themselves to elections.
Every other function he participated in looked like a poll campaign.
But things then came crashing down. The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Oli’s December 20 decision to dissolve the House of Representatives and asked authorities to summon Parliament within 13 days—by March 8.
Oli is left with little options–and none to his liking. He either has to step down on moral grounds or face a no-confidence motion.
Oli’s aides so far have said that the prime minister would face the House.
According to Satya Narayan Mandal, a leader close to Oli, a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Oli-led Nepal Communist Party on Wednesday decided to move ahead as per the Supreme Court’s verdict and face the parliamentary process.
“Now everything will be decided in Parliament,” Mandal told the Post. “The meeting will continue on Thursday as well to prepare the party's strategy.”
There, however, is no clarity yet as to when the House meeting will be called and how it will proceed.
The Parliament Secretariat said it has already started preparations for the new House session.
“The Supreme Court’s order has brought the Parliament to the pre-December 20 state,” Speaker Agni Sapkota told the Post. “The Parliament Secretariat has already started its work. House meetings will proceed the way political parties want.”
Sapkota hinted that how Oli makes his moves and how the Nepal Communist Party appears before Parliament will determine the future political course as well as how the House will proceed.
Even though Oli’s House dissolution move had led to a split in the Nepal Communist Party politically, as Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal have their own factions, legally it is still the same party which the House recognises.
The House does not recognise factions led by Oli or Dahal and Nepal, according to experts.
The easier way out, say experts, will be Oli’s resignation.
In that case, President Bidya Devi Bhandari will call for the formation of government as per Article 76 (1) of the Constitution of Nepal which states that the President shall appoint the leader of a parliamentary party that commands majority in the House of Representatives as prime minister, and the Council of Ministers shall be constituted under his or her chairpersonship.
Since the Nepal Communist Party has yet to split legally, with its 173 Members of Parliament, the party still commands a majority.
“However, Oli might wish to win the vote of confidence from Parliament,” Yubraj Sangroula, a senior advocate and former attorney general, told the Post. “If he wins the vote of confidence, he will continue to lead the government, or else he will have to resign.”
The Dahal-Nepal faction controls around 90 of the 173 Members of Parliament of the Nepal Communist Party.
With around 82 Members of Parliament on his side, Oli will need the support of 55 lawmakers to win the vote of confidence. And this is possible only if the Nepali Congress, which has 63 seats, supports him.
But the Congress seems to be playing its cards close to its chest.
According to Congress leaders, Sher Bahadur Deuba, the party president, has received offers from both Oli as well as Dahal-Nepal factions.
Given Oli’s House dissolution move, which the Supreme Court has now termed unconstitutional, the Congress will face a moral question if it supports Oli. Supporting the Dahal-Nepal faction to install Dahal as prime minister or leading the government may not pay the desired dividends either, according to Congress insiders.
The Dahal-Nepal faction, however, is working on a strategy to first oust Oli as prime minister.
“If Oli does not resign, we will unseat him,” said Pampha Bhusal, a Standing Committee member of the Dahal-Nepal faction. “We were expecting Oli to resign immediately after the court's verdict.”
The Dahal-Nepal faction is likely to revive the same no-confidence motion that it had registered at the Parliament Secretariat on December 20, hours after the House was dissolved by President Bhandari on the recommendation of Oli.
“Once the House meeting convenes, we’ll start the process to remove Oli,” Bhusal told the Post.
In the no-confidence motion, the Dahal-Nepal faction has proposed Dahal as prime minister. For the Dahal-Nepal faction to get the no-confidence motion against Oli, it will need the support of the Nepali Congress. If the faction gets the majority vote for the motion, Bhandari will have to appoint Dahal as the new prime minister.
Will the Congress support the Dahal-Nepal faction’s no-confidence motion with Dahal as prime minister?
There’s no answer yet.
But if the Dahal-Nepal faction is bent on ousting Oli at any cost, it will have to file yet another no-confidence motion proposing Congress President Deuba as prime minister.
Article 100 (7) of the constitution says the President will appoint the Member of Parliament named in the no-confidence motion as the prime minister of the country. A prime minister appointed thus, however, will have to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of appointment.
Chandra Kant Gyawali, a senior advocate who specialises on constitutional law, said the issue of the Nepal Communist Party split and who is the leader of the Parliamentary Party won’t be of much significance when the prime ministerial candidate is named in the no-confidence motion. According to him, if Dahal is named the prime minister in the no-confidence motion and if he gets enough support, he does not even need to be elected the Parliamentary Party leader to become the prime minister.
As of now, since the Nepal Communist Party still remains legally one party, Oli is the leader of the Parliamentary Party.
With Nepal Communist Party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam, who has stayed neutral over the past two months, publicly demanding Oli’s resignation, the Oli faction has the support of a maximum of 82 lawmakers.
Oli now is not even in a position to split the Nepal Communist Party and form his own party.
As per the Political Parties Act-2017, for anyone to split a party and register a new one, he or she has to submit the signatures of 40 percent lawmakers (members of the Parliamentary Party) and Central Committee members. Back in April last year, Oli had introduced an ordinance to change the “and” provision into “or”, which would have meant anyone could split and register a new party with 40 percent of lawmakers (members of the Parliamentary Party) “or” 40 percent Central Committee members. Oli, however, was forced to withdraw the ordinance after widespread criticism.
So the door for Oli to split and register a new party is also closed.
According to Sangroula, who also is the executive director at Kathmandu School of Law, the Oli faction will have to accept the leadership of Dahal and Nepal and remain within the Nepal Communist Party.
“If the faction decides to split without 40 percent members of the Parliamentary Party and Central Committee, those with the Oli faction could lose parliamentary seats as per Clause 32 of the Political Parties Act,” said Sangroula. “Oli’s move of dissolving Parliament has turned out to be a trap for him.”