Election Commission to start process to settle dispute over legitimacy of ruling partyAfter the Dahal-Nepal faction submitted the necessary documents claiming legitimacy, the commission will now ask the Oli faction for its response to the claim.
The faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal in the Nepal Communist Party on Friday registered an application at the Election Commission claiming that it is the legitimate ruling party.
The two factions of the ruling party—one led by Dahal and Nepal and another led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli which are practically split but not split yet legally, have been making claims that their factions legitimately represent the Nepal Communist Party.
Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya said that the faction led by Dahal and Nepal formally started the process to get recognition by registering an application at the commission.
Dahal, Nepal and other senior leaders on Friday had reached the election body along with cadres protesting against the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
As per Section 44 (1) of the Political Parties Act-2017, the faction that claims to be the legitimate faction representing the party must substantiate the claim, among other things, through the signatures of at least 40 percent members of the Central Committee within 30 days since the dispute in the party arose.
Thapaliya said that even though the two factions had earlier submitted the decision of the Central Committee held by the factions, it was the first time that the formal process was initiated by any faction as per the legal provision.
"Now, the process begins to settle the dispute regarding which faction is legitimate," Thapaliya said. "We have told the leaders that the commission would take decisions within the period set by the law. We have to do it as early as possible even to be able to hold elections."
As per the Political Parties Act-2017, the commission should decide on such matters within 90 days since one faction makes formal claims about legitimacy .
The commission will now have to seek written feedback, along with the necessary supporting documents, from the Oli faction which it will have to present within 15 days.
Officials at the commission said that the documents submitted by both factions in the recent days would also be taken into account while settling the dispute. "The Dahal-Nepal faction has been submitting documents as required by the law in the last few days," said Raj Kumar Shrestha, spokesperson for the commission.
After receiving the feedback, the commission will invite both sides to the commission for dispute settlement and make efforts to settle the dispute through consensus, according to spokesman Shrestha.
If no consensus is reached, it will give legitimacy to one faction’s decision or the faction itself as the establishment, based on the evidence submitted. If such recognition cannot be given to one faction, the commission will recognise the faction which proves it has the majority in the Central Committee before the claims were made. The officially recognised faction is entitled to stay as the parent party while the other faction can register a new party, according to Section 44 (6) of the Political Parties Act.
The Dahal–Nepal faction has claimed that it has submitted the signature of 295 central committee members to the commission so far. When formed in May 2018, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) had notified the poll body that its Central Committee was 441-strong. Five members were added later.
"We have got support of more Central Committee members," Surendra Pandey, a senior leader from the Dahal-Nepal faction told the Post. "We told the Election Commission that we can verify the signatures with the presence of Central Committee members or without them."
The faction led by party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday informed the Election Commission that its Central Committee had been expanded to make it 1,199-member with the addition of 556 members now and with the provision of adding 197 members in the future.
Satya Narayan Mandal, a close ally of Oli, who was appointed as coordinator for Province-2 by the Oli faction on Thursday, told the Post that their faction represents Nepal Communist Party as the faction has a clear majority.
“The chair has enlarged the central committee by using the authority of being the chair and we have a clear majority in the party,” he said.
However, Pandey claimed that Oli faction does not have any authority to hold the Central Committee meeting as the party statute does not allow holding the meeting without fulfilling the quorum.
"In order to hold the meeting, there should be the presence of over 50 percent of Central Committee members which the Oli faction failed to do," he said. "The other faction has also enlarged the Central Committee in large numbers which cannot be done as per the party's statute."
He referred to the provision in Clause 18 (E 17) of the party's statute as per which the Central Committee can nominate a maximum 10 percent of the total Central Committee members as new members and that too only from a group that comes to merge with the party or joins the party.
Clause 60 of the party’s statute authorises the Central Committee to take decisions based on the majority vote if no consensus is reached.
But, Mandal claimed that Dahal had also added Central Committee members in the past in the absence of Oli.
For legal experts, it will be hard for the Oli faction to get recognition as the legitimate Nepal Communist Party.
“Whichever faction has majority in the Central Committee before the dispute arose is the legitimate faction to represent the original party based on the law and practice,” said Bhimarjun Acharya, a senior advocate with expertise on constitutional law. “The change made in the Central Committee sent after the dispute surfaced, should not be the basis for determining legitimacy as far as legal provisions and practices are concerned.”