Supreme Court may have brought politics on track but experts say crisis hasn’t endedThe Nepali Congress, with 63 seats in the House, will be the kingmaker. But if it chooses to stay out of the fray, Parliament may struggle to give a new government.
While declaring the dissolution of the House of Representatives unconstitutional, the Supreme Court on Tuesday also said that its winter session must resume within 13 days, or by March 8.
The first order of work for the reinstated House will be the formation of a new government as the Nepal Communist Party with 173 members in the 275-member lower house has split and there is no immediate likelihood of the two factions coming together.
How that process for the formation of a new government will move ahead, however, depends on the steps that Oli takes, according to observers.
Political analysts say the Oli should resign on moral grounds immediately and pave the way for the formation of a new government.
“Oli should demonstrate a political culture by resigning on moral grounds,” Krishna Pokharel, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “However, Oli is not a person who would give up power easily.”
In case Oli refuses to resign, he will have to face the no-confidence motion.
Oli’s aides have said that the prime minister won’t resign.
Surya Thapa, Oli’s press adviser, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday evening that the prime minister would face the House.
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party had on December 20, the day President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on the recommendation of Oli’s Cabinet, dissolved the House, registered a no-confidence motion with signatures of party lawmakers.
According to Pokharel, the same motion can be put into vote or the Dahal-Nepal faction or any other party in Parliament can lodge another motion.
A no-confidence motion needs signatures of 25 percent of the members of the House of Representatives.
For a no-confidence motion to pass and also to later form a government, the magic number is 138.
Nepali Congress, with 63 seats, will be the kingmaker.
It can either side with Oli who as of now has the support of 80-odd lawmakers or with Dahal and Nepal.
But Pokharel doesn’t see the possibility of the Nepali Congress extending its support to save Oli.
“It is not easy for the Nepali Congress to support the man who took unconstitutional steps,” said Pokhrel.
Experts on constitutional matters say who will lead the new government is the question that is uppermost, as there is no need for a no-confidence motion against Oli.
“Oli became a caretaker prime minister the day he dissolved the House and there is no need for a caretaker prime minister to resign,” said Bipin Adhikari, former dean at the Kathmandu University School of Law. “The President can call for the process for the formation of the new government once the session of the lower house commences.”
With the Dahal-Nepal faction already offering the premiership to Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, that is the most likely scenario, analysts say.
“It will be natural for the Nepali Congress to join hands with the Dahal-Nepal faction, and even the Janata Samajbadi Party could join the coalition government,” said Pokharel. “That will be a government of a two-thirds majority. It can then amend the Constitution of Nepal to address the concerns of a section of the country for the greater acceptability of the charter.”
If the Dahal-Nepal faction (90 members), the Congress (63) and the Janata Samajbadi Party (32) were to come together, they would make up 67 percent of the lower house.
But for that to happen, the Nepal Communist Party has to split legally first. Even though the party has seen a political split, legally it is still one, as the Election Commission still continues to recognise Oli and Dahal as its chairs.
Political analysts say the political crisis that Oli’s dissolution move precipitated by deciding to dissolve the House is not over yet.
“The court’s ruling may have brought politics back into track but it hasn’t ended the crisis,” Surendra Labh, a political commentator, told the Post. “In a hung parliament, there will be games for the formation of a new government.”
Political crisis could further deepen if the Nepali Congress decides to stay quiet.
In that case, the House won’t be able to produce a new government, as without the Congress, no combination could give the magic number of 138.
Meena Baidhya Malla, a former professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, also said that the [political] split in the Nepal Communist Party triggered by the House dissolution will now result in a hung parliament.
“A hung parliament means all the parties will make their maximum efforts to form its own government,” she told the Post. “That will mean different permutations will come into play.”
The situation will be reminiscent of the mid-1990s when the 1994 general elections brought a hung parliament as well as those following the first and second Constituent Assembly elections of 2008 and 2013 when no party had a majority.
Coalition governments and frequent changes of government were the order of the day.
Experts say chances of the Nepali Congress not joining hands with any party in government formation are slim, but if that happens, yet another House dissolution is likely, this time albeit under the constitutional framework.
“We cannot rule out that possibility,” said Adhikari, the law professor.
Without the participation of the Nepali Congress, there can be no coalition government, and the House will be dissolved as per Article 76 (7) of the constitution which is the only way it can be dissolved.
Article 76 (7) states, “In case where the prime minister appointed under Clause (5) fails to obtain a vote of confidence or the prime minister cannot be appointed, the President shall, on recommendation of the prime minister, dissolve the House of Representatives and appoint a date of election so that the election to another House of Representatives is completed within six months.”
Clause 5 relates to a member of the House of Representatives claiming that he or she can get the required majority vote and is allowed to form the government.
That would bring the country back to the situation that arose after Oli dissolved the House and called for midterm elections.