Fourth Koshi government falls apart within a yearHikmat Karki was running a minority government but stepped down, seeing no way of getting a vote of confidence.
The Koshi Province head has called for the formation of a new government following the resignation of Chief Minister Hikmat Karki on Saturday.
Province Head Parshuram Khapung invited the parties represented in the provincial assembly to form a government by Friday as per Article 168 (5) of the constitution. As per the clause, any lawmaker who presents a ground on which he or she can get a vote of confidence in the assembly is appointed the chief minister.
Karki, also the provincial assembly leader of the CPN-UML, opted to resign after seeing no sign of winning the vote of confidence. The Koshi Assembly was called on Saturday for a floor test.
“The present numbers game in the provincial assembly is sure to push us towards the midterm elections. We are ready to face it,” said Karki, announcing his resignation in the assembly. “However, snap polls are not the need of the hour. Our party is ready for every sort of negotiation.”
Karki was appointed the chief minister following a Supreme Court verdict on September 7. He led a minority government as per Article 168 (3) of the Constitution on September 8. It was a constitutional obligation for him to win the floor test by Saturday.
Karki had the support of only 40 assembly members from his party, including deputy speaker Srijana Danuwar, who has chaired the meetings following the Speaker’s resignation. The one chairing the assembly can vote only when there is a tie.
Karki needed the support of a minimum of 47 members in the 93-strong assembly and was short of seven members to win the floor test. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), which allied with the UML, was ready to support him, but only in a situation where Karki would win the confidence vote.
With 40 seats, the UML is the largest party in the assembly. The Congress has 29 seats, the CPN (Maoist Centre) 12, the RPP six, the CPN (Unified Socialist) four, and the Janata Samajbadi Party one.
“It was better to quit when it became certain that Karki would lose the confidence motion. Despite serious discussions with different parties, we couldn’t garner the support we needed,” Rewati Raman Bhandari, the UML chief whip in the provincial assembly, told the Post.
Several attempts by the UML to sow divisions in the Congress-led camp failed. The party had tried to get the support of at least one lawmaker from among the Maoists, the Congress and the Unified Socialist. The plan didn’t work out, leaving the chief minister with no alternative but to resign.
Now, any provincial member from any party can make a claim by presenting the signatures of at least 47 members. In that case, the province head appoints such a member as the chief minister. The chief minister appointed under 168(5) also needs to secure a vote of confidence within a month.
“Since the government formed as per Article 168 (3) has collapsed, the only option left was to call for 168 (5),” Uddhav Thapa, the Congress parliamentary party leader and former chief minister, told the Post.
Constitutional experts, however, say there is still room for a coalition government to be formed as per Article 168 (2). “The provincial chief could have called for a coalition government,” senior advocate Bipin Adhikari, a professor at Kathmandu University School of Law, told the Post. “It wasn't necessary to jump to the last option for government formation provisioned by Article 168 (5).”
Against the claim by UML leaders that the resignation doesn’t equal being voted out, Adhikari said Karki’s resignation means he failed to win the confidence of the assembly, even without a vote, technically.
Leaders from the Congress and the Maoist Centre parties have started their homework for government formation even before getting the call from the provincial head. “I, naturally, have a claim to the chief ministerial position,” said Thapa. He said his party was already in the negotiations with the RPP and was confident of its support.
Indra Bahadur Angbo, parliamentary party leader of the Maoist Centre, has also claimed the post of chief minister. Support from the RPP is a must for the Congress-led alliance to prove its majority.
The RPP, however, remains undecided. “Yes, we are in negotiations but no decision has been made. Our president, Rajendra Lingden, has the authority to decide on the matter,” Bhakti Sitaula, the RPP provincial assembly leader, told the Post. The Congress-led alliance has offered the Speaker's post to the party in exchange for its support. “Our party will make its position clear,” said Sitaula.
If the chief minister appointed under 168(5) also fails to secure majority votes within a month, the Koshi Province will head toward mid-term elections.