Political confusion remains the same one year on12 months after Oli’s House dissolution move: Parliament is deadlocked, judiciary is in crisis and government is hobbling with coalition partners having nothing in common.
Tika R Pradhan & Anil Giri
Monday marked one year since KP Sharma Oli suddenly dissolved the House of Representatives over infighting within his then Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
A year later, the government leadership has changed, but political confusion continues. The judiciary is in a crisis and the Parliament is deadlocked.
Oli’s House dissolution decision had met with severe criticism for he had taken an unconstitutional move—the constitution does not envision dissolving the Parliament by a majority prime minister.
The parties that sought restoration of the House said Oli had stoked political instability.
But there is uncertainty even today, say observers and analysts. Nepali political parties have failed the country and the people, according to them.
The House that Oli refused to take ownership of ever since he dissolved it—a year ago and again on May 21 this year—is not his priority even today.
His party has been resorting to obstructions.
“Oli is trying to prove his decision to dissolve the House was right so his party is obstructing the proceedings,” said Daman Nath Dhungana, a former Speaker of parliament. “Those who objected to Oli’s decision must unite to save democracy and constitutionalism.”
But what Dhungana says looks more like wishful thinking. Those opposing Oli are now running the government and they seem to have lost the plot.
The current ruling coalition led by the Nepali Congress has the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha as partners.
The coalition is now under threat over the Millennium Challenge Corporation, under which Nepal will receive $500 million from the US in grants. Except for the Congress, all alliance partners are against its ratification from the House.
That apart, political blame-game has continued, with none of the parties trying to address the issues that concern the public.
On Monday, Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal accused Oli of trying to fish in troubled waters.
“The UML is sending different proposals to the Nepali Congress to split the alliance. Oli is giving feelers that the UML will support the Congress to let it run the government alone if the alliance breaks down,” said Dahal at a function organised by a CPN (Unified Socialist)-affiliated press organisation in Kathmandu . “That’s why it is obstructing the House and refusing to accept the decision of the Election Commission [to register a new party under Madhav Nepal].”
The UML has been obstructing the House, arguing that Speaker Agni Sapkota failed to act on its decision to expel 14 of its lawmakers including Madhav Nepal.
Nepal’s CPN (Unified Socialist) was registered by the Election Commission on August 25.
The next meeting of the House has been scheduled for Tuesday, but the UML has vowed to obstruct the proceedings.
Analysts say the last one year since Oli dissolved the House has been wasted, with governance completely taking a back seat, just as the country stares at an economic crisis and the coronavirus scare.
CK Lal, a political commentator and a columnist for the Post, said that after the Supreme Court restored the House, twice, there was a semblance that the system was back on track.
“But the political process failed to get momentum,” Lal told the Post. “The engine could not function. People thought bringing the system back on track was an achievement, but the country actually has failed to move ahead.”
Lal pointed out a few reasons for the problems facing the country.
“Democracy cannot thrive if the main actors fail to trust each other. This mistrust stems also from the existing constitutional setup, as it is faulty,” Lal told the Post. “It doesn’t create an environment for mutual trust. Oli’s ego—whether in power or in opposition—that he should be at the centre too has created a deadlock.”
Amid the current impasse, some say elections could be the best way forward.
If the current coalition breaks for any reason, there are chances the elections, which otherwise are due next year, could be held earlier.
Pradip Gyawali, deputy general secretary of the UML, said if elections had been held when Oli had called for them after dissolving the House on December 20 last year, political stability would have been restored by now.
According to Gyawali, it is Dahal and some leaders who created instability by stopping Oli from going for the elections.
“Dahal is the source of political instability in Nepal,” said Gyawali who served as foreign minister under Oli when he dissolved the House twice. “He has become a tendency in Nepali politics.”
Some constitutional experts also believe that elections could give a way out to the current political crisis, as the House has become almost ineffective.
“At least four sessions since the Parliament was restored after its first dissolution have failed to accomplish anything, except endorsing the budget. This clearly means that Parliament has failed,” said Bipin Adhikari, a former dean at the Kathmandu School of Law. “The only way left for the parties now is to go to the polls. But the coalition partners don’t want it.”
According to Adhikari, it is better if elections are held early if such a deadlock continues.
But not all agree that elections could fix the problems.
The 2017 elections had given the communists a strong mandate to govern, which many thought would ensure political stability. However, Nepali politicians’ lust for power and self-centred attitude led to the fall of a nearly two-thirds majority government, according to observers.
“What will the country achieve if it goes to elections now?” said Lal, the political commentator. “It will give the same fractured mandate. The distrust among parties remains the same. Politicians do not seem to be committed to the system and the people. Parties have to inspire hope that there indeed is a light at the end of the tunnel.”