How are Dahal, Deuba and Nepal sharing PM’s seat between them?Some leaders with inside knowledge say the prime ministerial tenures have been fixed. Others differ. A Unified Socialist leader claims there is even a written agreement.
Tika R Pradhan
After offering the post of President to the largest party in Parliament, the three parties—the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (Unified Socialist)—are now looking to finalise a new power-sharing deal, including the exact durations individual leaders will become the prime minister for.
As the three parties have decided to helm the government by turns, the ongoing five-year tenure of Parliament will see at least three governments, if their understanding holds until the next elections.
The top leaders of the three parties—Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the Maoist Centre, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, and CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Kumar Nepal—have a tacit understanding to rotate the prime ministership between them, but party insiders have different interpretations on the duration their party will get to lead the government.
Prime minister’s chief adviser Haribol Gajurel told the Post that the three leaders have agreed to govern by turns, but they are yet to come to a concrete understanding on which leader will lead the government for how long.
However, leaders of other parties have their own claims and some said they were not authorised to reveal anything about the agreement among the three parties. With eight parties supporting Congress candidate Ram Chandra Paudel in the presidential race, they have also agreed to back Janata Samajbadi Party’s candidate for Vice President.
Some Maoist Centre leaders said their party would lead for two-and-a-half years, the Unified Socialist for a year while the Congress would rule for the remaining a year and a half. As per this agreement, the Unified Socialist chair Nepal gets only a year as prime minister.
But Unified Socialist leaders claimed their party chair will get to lead for a year and a half after Dahal, and they are confident Dahal will stay true to his word.
“Though the three major parties of the revived coalition have a tacit understanding to lead the country for certain durations—two years for Dahal, and a year and a half each for Nepal and Deuba—the three leaders will soon finalise the deal while settling other power-sharing issues,” said Ghanashyam Bhusal, a leader of the CPN (Unified Socialist) who was present at the latest negotiations among the parties. “I don’t think a written agreement will be needed.”
However, Deputy General Secretary of Unified Socialist Vijay Poudel said the three leaders already had a written power-sharing agreement.
According to Poudel as well, his party chair Nepal will lead the government for a year and a half after Dahal.
However, some reckon a constitutional dilemma may prevent Dahal from handing over the helm to Nepal as there are concerns that when Dahal resigns, the prime ministership will automatically go to the largest party as per Article 76 (3) of the constitution. Dahal’s government was formed in accordance with Article 76 (2).
But senior advocate Sunil Pokharel said there would be no such constitutional confusion when the incumbent prime minister resigns. “The process of prime ministerial election attracts Article 76 (3) only if the prime minister is unseated after failing to get a trust vote in Parliament,” Pokharel told the Post. “But when a prime minister voluntarily steps down, the President will call the parties to form a new government in accordance with Article 76(2).” According to him, in such a scenario, the process under Article 76(2) can be repeated.
Unified Socialist leaders claim the party leadership had backed away from its claim for presidency only after the Congress and the Maoist Centre assured that leader Nepal would become prime minister for over a year. The Unified Socialist chose to join the Congress-Maoist alliance even as the CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli had told Nepal that the party was ready to field him as its presidential candidate.
Congress vice-president Purna Bahadur Khadka said he was unaware of the power-sharing agreement among the three leaders. "It is inappropriate to talk about future governments when the UML is still in the government. Moreover, right now, we are solely focused on the presidential election," Khadka said.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Dahal, while addressing a function, hinted that he chose to join hands with the Congress even after knowing that the new understanding could shorten his time as prime minister, and even though he could have had a longer stint by sticking with the UML.
On December 25, Dahal had agreed on sharing the prime ministership and the Speaker’s post for equal half terms with the UML while allowing the latter to elect the President. But on Friday evening, Dahal revived the pre-polls alliance by deciding to vote for Congress’ candidate in the upcoming presidential polls scheduled for March 9.
A constituent of the UML-led seven-party alliance, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, has already pulled out its ministers from the government and withdrawn its support to Prime Minister Dahal. This it did after the formation on Friday of the new eight-party coalition comprising among others, the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Nagarik Unmukti Party, the Janamat Party and the CPN (Maoist Centre). These four parties ditched partnership with the UML.
Leaders said the eight-party alliance will now meet on a regular basis and discuss power-sharing at both federal and provincial levels.
A meeting was held on Sunday evening at Baluwatar to discuss when the prime minister should seek a vote of confidence after the Rastriya Prajatantra Party withdrew its support.