UML opposes PM’s idea of sharing key posts with CongressKP Sharma Oli leaves an all-party meeting midway after warning Congress not to plot against the ruling coalition.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has expressed his openness to sharing constitutional positions among major parties including the Nepali Congress if the ruling coalition partners have no objection.
At a meeting Tuesday of the parties that supported the government in the January 10 floor test, Dahal, however, said he is committed to the agreements among the ruling coalition partners.
Although Congress leaders present at the meeting expressed their willingness to discuss sharing of constitutional positions, the parties failed to come to a conclusion after CPN-UML leaders rejected Dahal’s proposal, saying the ruling coalition has already agreed to divide all major constitutional positions among its member parties.
Dahal had convened Tuesday’s meeting to discuss elections to various constitutional positions—including the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, President and Vice-President—besides expressing gratitude to the parties for their support. The meeting was held hours after 15 new ministers were inducted into his Cabinet.
“Thanking all the parties for their support, the prime minister asked for their suggestions on the way forward in the changed context,” reads a statement issued by the prime minister’s secretariat after the meeting. “Clarifying that the agreement with the coalition partners on running the government would be given continuity, the prime minister also sought suggestions of the parties on whether they could join hands on the elections for constitutional positions.”
However, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli flatly rejected Dahal’s proposal citing a previous deal among the ruling parties on sharing constitutional positions. He said his party would nominate the President and the Speaker, the Maoist Centre would nominate the Vice-President, while the Deputy Speaker would be nominated by the Rastriya Swatantra Party.
Oli also told Congress leaders not to plot against the ruling coalition by giving it confidence votes in different provinces.
According to a leader present at the meeting, Chairman Oli also said that from a legal standpoint, the House of Representatives is without a main opposition party. Oli left the meeting early after a verbal exchange with Congress leaders.
Congress leaders said politically neutral persons should be appointed to constitutional posts like the President and the Speaker given the sensitivity of the positions and the poor state of the economy.
“We expressed our willingness to discuss the prime minister’s proposal on sharing constitutional positions as those holding those positions should be neutral and have the capacity to safeguard the constitution,” said Ramesh Lekhak, Congress leader and chief whip, who was present at the meeting. “UML appears adamant. But we will continue discussions if the prime minister invites us again. On the other hand, we will decide our own course if he says further discussions are not necessary.”
The Parliament Secretariat has scheduled the Speaker’s election for Thursday.
After getting the confidence vote in Parliament from the largest party, Dahal on Saturday had told a group of editors that he would also discuss elections for Speaker and President with the Nepali Congress.
But during Monday’s meeting of the ruling coalition, two of its leaders —RSP chair Rabi Lamichhane and RPP chair Rajendra Lingden, both Oli’s backers according to some UML leaders—had supported Oli’s views that the Congress should not be included in any power-sharing deal.
At least three leaders including a member of Dahal’s personal secretariat told the Post that the prime minister wants to see a Congress nominee being elected either the President or the Speaker. But the UML, with whose support Dahal became prime minister after Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba ditched him, is vehemently opposed to the idea.
“We are in favour of appointing a Congress nominee as either Speaker or President with consensus among all major parties,” said Chakrapani Khanal, deputy general secretary of the Maoist Centre. “I think we still have enough time to convince UML leaders on that.”
Prime Minister Dahal had told a group of editors on Saturday that as there was no written agreement among the ruling coalition partners on sharing constitutional positions, the issue was still up for discussions.
Nepali Congress leaders claim that the party decided to give Dahal a confidence vote after he promised to support a Congress nominee for President.
The largest party in the House of Representatives with 89 seats, the Nepali Congress, had decided to back Dahal during the January 10 trust vote after he formally asked Congress chief Deuba for support. With Congress’ backing, Dahal got a vote of confidence from 268 of the 270 lawmakers in attendance in parliament on the day.
Besides Oli, representing the UML at Tuesday’s all-party meeting were senior vice-chair Ishwar Pokhrel and General Secretary Shankar Pokhrel. Likewise, from the Congress, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, Vice-chair Purna Bahadur Khadka, and Chief Whip Ramesh Lekhak were present besides party president Deuba.
Also present at the meeting were Madhav Nepal from the CPN (Unified Socialist), Rabi Lamichhane from the Rastriya Swatantra Party, Baburam Bhattarai from the Nepal Samajbadi Party, Ranjita Shrestha from the Nagarik Unmukti Party, Minister Abdul Khan from the Janamat Party and independent lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh.
According to lawmaker Singh, he advised Dahal to avoid having his feet in two boats or else he would have an accident. “I told the prime minister to either remain with the UML or go with the Congress,” said Singh.