News Digest – Democracy & Governance (December 17 – December 23, 2020)

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Oli-Dahal discuss

Domestic Politics

The Constitutional Council Ordinance

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): In the December 16 Standing Committee meeting, PM Oli agreed to revoke the ordinance about Constitutional Council, which he had introduced unilaterally inviting severe criticism. In the same meeting, PM Oli hinted at making deputy-chairman Bamdev Gautam the next prime minister if he had to step down.

The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP called a provincial-level meeting of district chairpersons and secretaries on December 18. Prior to this meeting of Province 1 cadres, the faction had held a similar meeting with party officials from Bagmati province. The meetings criticized PM Oli’s style of working and dealing with the party.

On December 19, PM Oli held a series of meetings that were curiously observed, as it was the first time in months that the PM had left his residence for any meeting. First, he met NCP’s co-chair Dahal, and on the way back, he met the Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa at his residence. Later on the same day, he also entered Sheetal Niwas to meet the president. The Oli-Dahal meeting inconclusively revolved around the former’s demand with the latter to withdraw the political document full of accusations and counter-accusations. However, Dahal had showed no interest in doing so.

Opposition Parties: Briefing NC’s the parliamentary party meeting about the ordinance and the subsequent events, president Sher Bahadur Deuba said that PM Oli can not differentiate between the government and the state. He also stated that the government’s steps were undemocratic.

The opposition Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal (JSPN) reached an agreement on December 19 to: a) pressure the government to resume the parliamentary session, and b) collaborate on public-interest issues such as democracy’s protection, corruption, the COVID-19 crisis, and economic emergency.  

The Supreme Court: The constitutional bench at the Supreme Court decided that it could not hear the cases against the new ordinance as well as one against the House Speaker Agni Sapkota.

Parliamentary Dissolution

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): On December 20, 2020, president Bidya Devi Bhandari endorsed the cabinet’s recommendation and dissolved the lower house of the federal parliament. The mid-term elections are allocated for April-May 2021.

NCP’s Standing Committee meeting, on December 20, convened despite PM Oli’s drastic move and his absence in the meeting. The committee decided to take disciplinary action on Oli for his unconstitutional move. It also nominated ex-Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara as a Standing Committee member. NCP’s Dahal-Nepal faction also informed the Election Commission about penalizing PM Oli.

On the other hand, PM Oli continues to solidify his grip over the party. On December 22, 2020, the Oli faction called a Central Committee meeting, which decided to hold the party’s convention in November-December of 2021. The faction appointed Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali as NCP’s new spokesperson and decided to expand the NCP’s Central Committee from 447 to 1199 member. PM Oli also added 556 new members to the CC, out of which, 17 were from Morang. The group also assigned leaders to provide functional training to the newly appointed CC members.

While the Oli faction held Central Committee (CC) meeting in Baluwatar, the Dahal-Nepal faction also held its separate Central Committee meeting in New Baneswor’s International Convention Centre. The latter faction’s CC meeting also approved the decision to protest against parliamentary dissolution. The meeting also approved the decision to remove Oli from the party’s chairmanship and appoint Madhav Nepal as the new chairman. The faction is set to appoint Dahal as the leader of parliamentary party.

The Opposition: Nepali Congress, which condemned PM Oli’s move as a ‘reprehensible act’, held an all-party meeting at its party office to discuss and strategize a collective resistance against Oli.

Nepali Congress’ Central Committee meeting also discussed parliamentary restoration, where leaders close to president Sher Bahadur Deuba, such as NP Saud, spoke in the favor of mid-term elections while senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel and others stressed on protesting on the streets for parliamentary resumption.

Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) decided to launch a nation-wide demonstration against the government from December 27, 2020. The party will be protesting the government’s involvement in several corruption scandals and its failure to properly address the COVID-19 crisis and the country’s unemployment situation.

The Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal (JSPN) decided to launch a five-day protest against PM Oli’s unconstitutional move to dissolve the parliament.

The Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has registered 13 writs against PM’s Oli’s move to dissolve the parliament unconstitutionally; a single bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana referred all cases related to parliamentary dissolution to the Constitutional Bench; the Bench will hear the cases on December 25. The SC, however, refused to issue a stay order against the government.

Governance & Corruption

Corruption cases: A complaint has been lodged against Bhogilal Yadav, a teacher working at Shree Aadharbhut Primary School in Siraha district, for making a fake permanent teaching license for a temporary teacher. Bagmati and Lalbakaiya River Control Project, Parmanipur Baraka Project Chief Rajkumar Srivastava and 5 others have been found guilty of embezzling Rs. 96,64,296.63.

A chargesheet has been filed against them for acquiring illegal gains. A chargesheet has been filed against Bhagwati Raut Gurung, assistant sub-engineer for the Earthquake Branch in Bhirkot Municipality under National Reconstruction Authority, District Project Implementation Unit, Syangja, for taking bribes.

Land Revenue Office, Tulsipur Dang Office Chief Land Revenue Officer Naresh Kumar Khadka and 4 others were fined for acquiring Rs. 320,000 in illegal profit through bribery and corruption. Tilak Prasad Ghimire of the Sports Development Committee Sanogaucharan, Kathmandu was found taking Rs. 15,000 in bribes in order to renew the club’s official documents.

Governance: A report prepared by the National Planning Commission and the United Nations said that Nepal must prepare a strategy for how it will operate after coming out of least developed country status, as it risks losing preferential treatment after that.

Transport entrepreneurs have pressured three district administration offices to lift odd and even rules for vehicles in Kathmandu Valley. Starting the lift on Friday, there may be increased traffic on the road. In order to transport sixteen trucks loaded with goods from China to Nepal, Hilsa and Lapcha border points, which were closed for 10 months due to the pandemic, were temporarily opened, and closed again on Monday.

The Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has asked the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate irregularities in the contract the government signed with Omni Business Corporate International to procure essential medicines and health products to combat Covid-19.

Two poachers with firearms have been arrested from Bardiya National Park Area, raising concerns about poaching in the area. Construction work for various road projects in Kanchanpur are running behind schedule; contractors mention lack of funds whereas stakeholders cite the contractors’ negligence as the reason for the delays.

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