Provinces following Oli’s example of governing through ordinancesKarnali governed by Maoist Centre-Congress alliance and Lumbini by UML prorogue provincial assemblies and introduce new fiscal budgets through ordinances.
One of the major criticisms the KP Sharma Oli government faced was that it tried to rule the country through ordinances. He issued 15 of them, including one for the federal budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, in the last one year.
Not just the opposition bloc led by the Nepali Congress, but also leaders from his own party CPN-UML criticised Oli for promoting undemocratic practices by issuing one ordinance after another. Even the Supreme Court intervened, quashing the ordinance issued to amend the Citizenship Act-2006 saying that the laws with long-term implications shouldn’t be introduced by bypassing Parliament.
In an attempt to address the demands of the Mahantha Thakur faction of Janata Samajbadi Party, which Oli had wooed to its side, the government had issued the ordinance to revise the Act within three days after dissolving the House of Representatives for the second time on May 21.
In its landmark decision of July 12 that restored the House of Representatives and ordered that Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba be appointed prime minister, the Supreme Court also questioned the government’s intention of introducing the new budget through an ordinance a week after dissolving the lower house.
Now provincial governments, including that in Karnali Province led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) which criticised Oli’s ‘undemocratic’ practices, have followed Oli’s example. Karnali and Lumbini provincial governments have introduced their budgets for the fiscal year 2021-22 through ordinances.
Experts said these are unhealthy democratic practices.
“It is the responsibility of the ruling party to create an environment to get the budget through Parliament or provincial assemblies,” Som Bahadur Thapa, former secretary at the Parliament Secretariat, told the Post. “It is very much an undemocratic move to prorogue the assembly and issue the budget through ordinance. It is saddening that the parties that stood against Oli government’s tendency to govern the country through ordinances have taken the same path at the provincial level.”
Karnali administration prorogued the session of the Provincial Assembly on Wednesday midnight and issued the budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 on Thursday, a day before the new fiscal year began, through an ordinance. The Mahendra Bahadur Shahi-led government has the Congress and the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of CPN-UML as its coalition partners.
Members from the Oli faction of the UML in Karnali had been protesting in the assembly saying that Shahi had inducted three UML lawmakers to his Cabinet despite the decision of the party not to include them.
Shahi was elected chief minister in February 2018 as part of a power-sharing deal between the UML and the Maoist Centre which merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in May 2018.
However, after the March 7 decision of the Supreme Court to scrap the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and revive the UML and the Maoist Centre, on March 17 the UML withdrew the support it had lent to Shahi. As a result, he was forced to seek a vote of confidence. On April 16, he survived the vote after four UML provincial assembly members from the Nepal faction of the party crossed the floor to support him. Three of them were subsequently made ministers.
With the Oli faction of the UML protesting, Shahi did not even attempt to present the budget in the Provincial Assembly. Instead, he prorogued it and introduced the budget through an ordinance as prorogation of the Provincial Assembly was the condition needed to introduce the budget through an ordinance.
Lumbini Province too resorted to the prorogation of the provincial assembly session and introduced the budget through an ordinance. Chief Minister Shanker Pokharel, a key leader of the UML and close aide to party chair Oli, prorogued the assembly meeting on Thursday midnight and issued the provincial budget through ordinance on Friday after realising that the budget might not get through the assembly.
The ruling party has 38 provincial assembly members while three from the Thakur faction of Janata Samajbadi Party have also supported the provincial government. However, the opposition parties too have exactly the same strength in the 83-member assembly with the Nepali Congress having 19 seats, the Maoist Centre 17, the Upendra Yadav-led Janata Samajbadi Party faction three and Rastriya Janamorcha one. An assembly member from Dang, who was elected in the by-poll as then Nepal Communist Party (NCP) candidate, has stood in the opposition.
As both sides have 41 seats each, the Speaker, who comes from the Maoist Centre, could cast a decisive vote possibly leading to the failure of the budget. In case the budget fails to pass the Provincial Assembly, the government has to resign in principle as it would suggest the government has slipped into the minority.
The battle for supremacy in the Lumbini Provincial Assembly has been going on since the Supreme Court invalidated the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). As many as 40 assembly members from Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Centre), Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha on May 9 registered a no-confidence motion against Pokharel for the second time.
On April 19, 41 provincial assembly members had signed a no-confidence motion against Pokharel, who resigned on May 2 before the vote on the motion could take place. However, he was re-appointed the chief minister of a coalition government as he commanded the support of the majority lawmakers with the support of a faction in the Janata Samajbadi Party.
“I am not surprised that Pokharel followed the footsteps of his boss Oli,” Taranath Ranabhat, a former Speaker, told the Post. “But shouldn’t the Congress and the Maoist Centre justify their moves in Karnali Province?”
Experts say bypassing Parliament or the assembly is undermining the roles of the people’s representatives which will only weaken democracy.
“There is no point having the mechanism or the people’s representatives in place if they don’t have a role in endorsing laws and the budget. This is disregarding the vote of the sovereign people,” Meena Baidhya Malla, a former professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, told the Post.
“The latest incidents in Karnali and Lumbini provinces show that corrupt culture is dominant across the party line and the country.”