Oli capitalises on other parties’ lack of heft to act against himExperts say the prime minister needs to seek a vote of confidence by Tuesday, but there is no answer to what happens if he refuses to do so.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and leaders from orbit have for a while been challenging the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) to withdraw the support the party lent back in February 2018 and table a no-confidence motion.
Oli on Saturday also repeated the same challenge once again.
“I am asked to resign every day. First withdraw the support to the government,” Oli said while inaugurating the construction of 165 road projects in all electoral constituencies.
While filing a no-confidence motion against the prime minister is an option that is available in the House, many say Oli himself needs to seek a vote of confidence as per the constitutional provisions.
“Since the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has been scrapped and the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre have been revived to their pre-merger state, Oli must take a vote of confidence by April 6,” said Chandra Kant Gyawali, a senior advocate who specialises on constitutional law.
Oli was elected prime minister in February 2018 as the leader of the CPN-UML, which had won the largest number of seats (121) in the 275-member House in the 2017 elections, with support from the Maoist Centre, which had won 53 seats.
The article that was invoked then was 76(2) which says: “In cases where no party has a clear majority in the House of Representatives, the President shall appoint as prime minister a member of the House who can command a majority with the support of two or more parties in the House.”
About three months after Oli became the prime minister, the UML and the Maoist Centre merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
The party itself commanded a majority then, as it had 174 seats in the House, far more than the 136 required to form the government.
According to experts, the Oli government, hence, got converted into one formed under Article 76 (1) which says: “The President shall appoint the leader of a Parliamentary Party that commands majority in the House of Representatives as the prime minister, and the Council of Ministers shall be constituted under his or her chairpersonship.”
That the Oli government was formed as per Article 76 (1) was recognised also by the Constitutional Bench on February 23 when it overturned Oli’s decision to dissolve the House.
The court called the House dissolution move unconstitutional, saying the [Oli] government was formed as per Article 76 (1) and that there still was the possibility of forming an alternative government. Nepal’s constitution allows House dissolution only when all the options to form a government are exhausted.
According to Gyawali, since the premise of formation of the Oli government has changed to Article 76 (2), the prime minister must seek a vote of confidence now.
“If Oli refuses to do so, it will be yet another violation of the constitution,” Gyawali told the Post.
While Article 76 (4) says the prime minister appointed under clause (2) shall obtain a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives no later than 30 days after the date of such appointment, Article 100 (2) says if the political party which the prime minister represents is divided or a political party in coalition government withdraws its support, the prime minister shall table a motion in the House for a vote of confidence within 30 days.
Experts say both are applicable in Oli’s case.
Oli’s 30 days to seek the vote of confidence started from March 7 as the Supreme Court on that day scrapped the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and revived the UML and the Maoist Centre. The same court decision also meant a split in the Nepal Communist Party into two—the UML and the Maoist Centre.
Oli and his supporters, however, say since the Maoist Centre has not withdrawn its support, there is no need for him to seek a vote of confidence.
“There is no reason for the prime minister to seek a vote of confidence,” Subas Nembang, deputy leader of the UML Parliamentary Party and Oli’s close confidante, told the Post. “He is not going to seek the vote of confidence.”
That the Maoist Centre has not withdrawn the support it lent Oli three years ago is true, many say the point is not whether it has done so. The point is that the Oli government formation premise has changed altogether.
Speaking at the lower house last week, Dev Gurung, chief whip of the Maoist Centre, asked Oli to seek a vote of confidence by April 6.
The Maoist Centre, however, has not been able to provide a plausible explanation as to what has stopped it from withdrawing its support. Some insiders, however, say the Maoist Centre feared Oli could dissolve the House again if it withdrew its support.
Experts say since Oli was making a mockery of the constitution and democratic norms by not resigning despite the court overturning his House dissolution decision, it was the responsibility of other parties to initiate a process from the House to punish him. Since the House was reinstated and the Maoist Centre was resurrected, it should have immediately withdrawn the support and the Nepali Congress should have made a move to file a no-confidence motion, according to them.
“The parties are already late in initiating action,” Mohan Lal Acharya, an advocate and former adviser to the Constituent Assembly, told the Post.
With the time passing by, Oli, who has not been giving any business to the House, is getting a chance to prove that the House is irrelevant.
According to Acharya, in Oli’s shenanigans, the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress are equally complicit. “Actually the parties that should have used the House to initiate action against Oli for his unconstitutional moves and utter disregard for the rule of law are allowing him to stay in power,” said Acharya.
It’s unclear which move the parties are going to make if Oli refuses to seek a vote of confidence by April 6.
The options left will be a no-confidence motion against him, say experts, who are quick to point out that option, however, has been alive ever since the House was reinstated.
Vijay Kant Karna, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, said a coalition government is formed on some principles and conditions, which no longer exist between the UML and the Maoist Centre.
“Oli must seek a vote of confidence on political as well as legal grounds,” said Karna. “But Oli is making a mockery of the democratic and political principles. And other parties, with their inaction, have become Oli’s biggest allies.”