Politics of no confidence in House, boycott and sloganeeringDahal-Nepal faction walks out in protest, Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party bar government from presenting ordinances, as Parliament convenes after it was reinstated.
Boycott, sloganeering and obstructions marked Sunday’s House of Representatives meeting which was being held after the Supreme Court on February 23 overruled Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s decision of December 20 last year to dissolve it.
The meeting started hours after the Supreme Court on Sunday afternoon called the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which was registered under Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, illegitimate, and revived the CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) just like they were before they merged in May 2018.
The Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal faction which parted ways with Oli on December 22 boycotted Sunday’s House meeting, while the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party walked up to the well when Speaker Agni Sapkota allowed Law Minister Lila Nath Shrestha to present the ordinances, as many as eight, which were introduced by the Oli government when the House was in recess.
Earlier in the day, the Dahal-Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party during their meeting with Speaker Sapkota had asked him not to include any agenda other than reading out President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s letter of summoning the House session and a condolence motion.
The Oli administration had issued eight ordinances including the one related to the controversial amendment to the Constitutional Council (Functions, Duties and Procedures) Act-2010 issued on December 15.
“The Speaker tried to find a meeting point. However, it was not possible,” Gopal Nath Yogi, secretary for the House of Representatives, told the Post. “That led to a delay in the commencement of the meeting by an hour.”
Bhandari, as per the recommendation of the government, had called the session of the lower house for 4pm.
As soon as Sapkota announced the commencement of the House meeting, lawmakers from the Dahal-Nepal faction stood up from their seats demanding that they be given time to air their views.
Bhim Rawal, who spoke on behalf of the faction, questioned Oli’s legitimacy as prime minister. Rawal said that Oli had lost legitimacy to remain prime minister after the reinstatement of the House that he had dissolved.
“We won’t cooperate if the House allows the government to present the ordinances,” said Rawal.
The ruling faction of the Nepal Communist Party led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, however, said that the government should be allowed to present the ordinances as it was a legal compulsion.
The Regulation of the House of Representatives makes it mandatory to present the ordinances at the first meeting of every session. Rule 93 (1) of the regulation says the ordinances issued as per Article 114 of the Constitution of Nepal should be presented at the first meeting of the House session.
The Dahal-Nepal faction refused to pay heed to the Speaker's call to let the government present the ordinances.
“I have allowed you to register your dissent,” said Sapkota. “Now let me proceed with the House business.”
As soon as Law Minister Shrestha was given the nod to present ordinances, the Dahal-Nepal faction walked out.
Then it was the turn of the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party to stand up and walk towards the well.
The two opposition parties demanded withdrawal of the ordinance related to the Constitutional Council Act.
“We are against letting the government present an unconstitutional ordinance before the House,” said Bal Krishna Khand, chief whip of the Nepali Congress. “Parliament cannot function unless the government commits to withdrawing it.”
The two parties shouted slogans as Minister Shrestha went ahead with presenting the ordinance related to the Constitutional Council Act.
The Oli government on December 15 had issued the ordinance allowing the Council to hold its meeting in the presence of a majority of its members. The ordinance also amended the provision for taking decisions by a majority of the present members.
The Council meeting on the very day had recommended 38 members to 11 constitutional commissions. The December 25 Council meeting was not attended by Speaker Sapkota and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Following protests from the opposition, Sapkota adjourned the House for 10 minutes but it never resumed.
“It was not possible to resume the House meeting as both the ruling and opposition parties refused to budge,” said Yogi. He said the legal compulsion to present the ordinances in the first meeting couldn’t be met despite maximum efforts from the Parliament Secretariat.
Experts on parliamentary affairs say it was wrong for the opposition not to allow the very first meeting of the reinstated House to commence.
“They picked up a wrong issue to protest,” Taranath Ranabhat, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, told the Post. “It could have been logical to demand Oli’s resignation on moral grounds. They always had an option to reject the ordinance through majority votes.”
Lawmakers from the Oli faction said those who obstructed the House meeting on Sunday made a mockery of their own demand, as they were the ones who were demanding that the House be reinstated.
“Everyone is watching their moves,” said Khim Lal Bhattarai, Nepal Communist Party’s chief whip at the National Assembly, after the Oli faction’s Parliamentary Party meeting which was held after the House meeting.
According to Bhattarai, at the Parliamentary Party meeting, Oli said that he would seek a vote of confidence if the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), which was revived by the Supreme Court, decides to withdraw its support.
“He [Oli] said it was our shortsighted decision to merge with the Maoists,” Bhattarai told the Post.
The UML and the Maoist Centre had formed an electoral alliance to fight the 2017 polls. The UML had won 121 seats and the Maoists 53.
Oli was elected prime minister as the leader of the UML in February 2018, three months before Oli and Dahal announced merger of their parties to form the Nepal Communist Party.
Oli’s House dissolution move brought a rift in the party and it was politically split—one faction led by Oli and the other by Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Since Sunday’s court decision has (re)created the UML and the Maoist Centre, the latter’s decision to withdraw support will mean Oli will have to seek support either of the Nepali Congress or the Janata Samajbadi Party.
The Congress party has 63 members (two suspended) and the Janata Samajbadi Party has 34 members (two suspended.)
In the 275-member House, Oli will need 138 votes to remain in power.
Within the UML, Nepal controlled a sizable number of lawmakers. If the Maoists withdraw support and Nepal decides to split from Oli, the situation will get even more complicated. Nepal, however, will need the support of 48 lawmakers to split as per the Political Parties Act.
Confusion, therefore, continues to persist.