Dahal-Nepal faction stakes claim to Nepal Communist Party at poll bodyExperts say it is up to the Election Commission to decide how to take the issue forward.
The ongoing dispute over who gets to inherit the Nepal Communist Party name and electoral symbol has taken a new turn with the Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal faction on Tuesday staking its claim over the party at the Election Commission.
With this, the legal battle for control over the party and its electoral symbol, the sun, has begun. But experts say which group wins will depend on how the commission takes the issue forward.
After both the Oli faction and its rival camp failed to lay claim to the party as per clause 44 of the Political Parties Act 2017, the Election Commission on January 24 had refused to recognise either of the factions as the authentic Nepal Communist Party.
But in order to break the deadlock, the Dahal-Nepal faction convened an emergency meeting and decided to lay claim over the party by submitting the signatures of majority members of the 441-strong Central Committee, recognised by the January 24 decision of the commission.
“Monday’s emergency central committee meeting was convened after 25 percent of the members demanded the meeting to discuss the debate over the party,” said Rajendra Pandey, a Central Committee member. “We have laid claim over the Nepal Communist Party as per the Sections 43 and 44 of the Political Parties Act by informing the commission that the party has taken disciplinary action against its chairman KP Sharma Oli and sacked the general secretary.”
The election body had said the decision to recognise the party with KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal as co-chairs was taken after both the factions failed to follow the provisions of the Political Parties Act 2017 as well as provisions laid down in their party’s statute.
After one of the warring factions of the ruling party laid claim to the party with 275 of the existing 429 members of 441-strong Central Committee by its side, experts and observers have said now the Election Commission can enter into the debate to resolve the authenticity issue.
“Though it is difficult to comment without looking at the necessary documents, it’s now up to the Election Commission to decide how to take up the issue,” said Bhojraj Pokharel, former chief
election commissioner. “It can either say that it won’t entertain the claim [presented by the Dahal-Nepal faction] or begin the process of resolving the debate since conducting elections without resolving the conflict in a major party is going to be difficult.”
Some experts also said the independence of the commission will be put to the test when it decides on the issue.
The Dahal-Nepal faction, which claims to command the backing of the majority of the central members, felt the urgency to lay claim to the party after the Election Commission started the electoral process.
On Monday, the commission organised a consultation with former chief election commissioners. During the meeting, the former officials suggested that the commission pass a verdict on the Nepal Communist Party conflict to ensure free and fair elections.
The Dahal-Nepal faction had requested the Election Commission to halt preparations for election until the Supreme Court passes its final verdict on the government's move of dissolving the House of Representatives.
The Dahal-Nepal faction also doesn’t want the commission to step up preparations for the polls as the Oli faction, which has control over state power, could push the nation towards polls without a verdict being passed on the party’s authenticity.
After the decision of the commission to recognise the unified party, leaders from the Oli faction have been publicly saying that now Dahal, Nepal and the leaders from the rival faction will have to contest the elections with tickets bearing Oli’s signature.
Former Chief Election Commissioner Dolakh Bahadur Gurung said that the commission can now look into the debate over the ruling party as one of the factions has laid claim to the party as demanded by the commission.
“With a faction laying claim to the party as per the Section 44 of the Political Parties Act, the commission can now look into the debate and resolve the issue now. The commission can’t say it won’t pass a verdict,” said senior advocate Khimlal Devkota, a Central Committee member of the Dahal-Nepal faction. “Now the commission will have to pass a verdict based on Section 44.”
He said the commission should pass a decision after inviting both the factions for dialogue and recognise the faction that has the backing of the most number of Central Committee members.
Section 44(6) of the Political Parties Act states that if a party splits, the commission can recognise the faction which has the backing of the majority of the central members and office-bearers as the old party and register a new party for the other faction.
The Dahal-Nepal faction has taken January 26, the day it received a letter from the commission saying it refuses to recognise any changes made by both the factions of the Nepal Communist Party, as the exact date on which the dispute erupted.
“We have laid our claim to the party as per Article 269 of the Constitution, Sections 43, 44, 45 and 51 of the Political Parties Act 2017 and rules 23 and 25 of the Political Parties Regulation 2018,” states the letter presented by the Dahal-Nepal faction to the Election Commission on Tuesday.
Raj Kumar Shrestha, spokesperson for the commission, said the Dahal- Nepal faction has registered a petition to resolve the dispute over the party’s office-bearers and the legality of their decisions as per Sections 43 and 44 of the Political Parties Act.
“Now the commission will take the process forward after studying and examining the petition and related documents,” Shrestha told the Post. “It may take some time.”
According to sources at the Election Commission, there are few issues yet to be sorted out. For example, officials are undecided over which date to be considered as the exact date for the origin of the dispute. Similarly, as the electoral process has already begun, officials are undecided whether the petition presented by the Dahal-Nepal faction would be sufficient to warrant a verdict.
“It may take at least three-four days to study the case and form an opinion based on suggestions from legal experts,” said the source at the commission.