News Digest – Democracy & Governance (December 24 – December 30, 2020)

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PM Oli

Democracy and Politics

Nepal Communist Party & the Parliamentary Dissolution : In a television interview, PM Oli has signaled that he will dissolve even the provincial assemblies if motions of no confidence are filed against the chief ministers in the provinces.

The two factions of the NCP have adopted their respective strategies post parliamentary dissolution. While the Dahal-Nepal faction have prioritized building public support and carrying out demonstrations, the Oli faction has geared up on organizational expansion and election preparation. The former has also been preparing to form the government; the faction picked Dahal as the leader of the parliamentary party.

The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP picked Surendra Pandey as its General Secretary. On December 29, 2020, the faction protested against PM Oli in all districts in the country. 

With a divided NCP, party workers at district and village level have also begun making their allegiances clear. Even the provincial governments have begun facing lack of confidence, owing to the Oli–Dahal divide.

While the country waits for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the parliamentary dissolution, the Election Commission has not only began its preparation for the mid-term election but is also pulled in a crucial battle between the NCP’s two faction over which faction gets the “legitimate claim” over the party. Both the factions claim to have a majority in the Central Committee (CC): while the Dahal-Nepal faction has a majority in the original CC number, PM Oli has “created” a new majority in his favor by expanding the CC from 446 to 1199.

The Supreme Court has demanded details and documents related the parliament dissolution case: PM Oli’s recommendation, the decision of the president’s office, date and time of the registration of vote-of-no-confidence, five Amicus curiae, number and name list of the party in the House of Representatives, and a written response from the government.

The Chinese Mediation in the NCP: After the Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi’s failed attempt at keeping the NCP united, a Chinese delegation led by Guo Yezhou, Chinese Communist Party’s deputy-minister of the international department, landed in Kathmandu on December 27, 2020. The delegation seeks to assess Nepal’s unfolding political development, evaluate the chances of a unity between NCP’s two faction, and study the consequences of the parliamentary dissolution, a possible mid-term election, and an ensuing political uncertainty in Nepal that may impact China’s strategic interests in the region.

After meeting president Bidya Devi Bhandari and PM KP Sharma Oli on the first day, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Speaker Agni Sapkota, and JSPN leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai on the second day, and NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba on the third day of their visit, the delegation has made China’s message clear: a) NCP should reunite b) Nepal should have political stability c) Nepal’s worsening political situation should not impact China’s security.

The Opposition: The opposition Nepali Congress appeared still divided on their response to the parliamentary dissolution. While senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel and Gagan Thapa were eager to hit the streets and protest PM Oli’s move, NC president Deuba wanted to wait until the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter.

Amidst the intra-party division, on December 28, 2020, Nepali Congress organized a nationwide protest, in all 165 constituencies, against PM Oli’s move to dissolve the parliament.

Miscellaneous: The representatives of private sector organizations have communicated their serious attention to the unfolding political developments in the country and have urged the political parties to make decisions with restraint.

On December 27, the Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’-led armed group exchanged a gunfire with the police in Sankhuwasabha district.

Following the cabinet recommendation, President Bidya Devi Bhandari has summoned the new session of National Assembly at 4:00 pm on January 1.

On December 26, 2020, a group of 12 civil society leaders issued a joint statement against PM Oli’s move, calling it a threat against democracy, federalism, and inclusion. 

Some comments from political leaders:

Barsha Man Pun, NCP leader and ex-minister: PM Oli has been tapping phone calls of all the leaders protesting against him.

Bhim Rawal, NCP leader: PM Oli is under an illusion that he is the state.

Ghanashyam Bhusal, NCP leader: PM Oli’s unconstitutional move will not last long.

Jhala Nath Khanal, NCP leader: KP Oli wasted three years of his tenure as the prime minister.

Surendra Pandey, NCP leader: PM Oli showed his fake nationalism by putting the new map under the table during the negotiation with Indian representatives.

Shankar Pokharel, CM of Lumbini and NCP leader: If Dahal withdraws the political document and agrees to go for the election, the NCP may still stay united.

Sher Bahadur Deuba, NC President: We will not say anything on the issue that is pending in the Supreme Court.

Ram Chandra Poudel, NC Senior leader: We have the Supreme Court to  stop Nepal from following the fate of Afghanistan.  PM Oli violated constitutional dignity by reshuffling the cabinet.  

Asta Laxmi Shakya, NC leader: KP Oli is no more a comrade; he is now an authoritarian ruler.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, ex-PM and JSPN leader: Nepali Congress should not be tempted by the greed for power, should Oli step down.  

Shyam Sharan, ex-Indian Ambassador to Nepal: China is playing the role of a referee to unite the two factions of the NCP.

Governance and Corruption

Governance: Department of Transport officials have yet to reach a decision on when driving licence tests will resume. Initially, the department announced that their services would restart after Dashain. Later, they postponed it until Tihar. However, the services haven’t resumed yet.

Nepali workers are going to India for work, fearing that the unstable political climate may cause an economic downturn. According to the Ministry of Social Development, 300,000 to 400,000 Nepali workers had returned to Nepal since the pandemic started, but almost all of them have returned to India between August and November.

Malaysia amnesty scheme allows undocumented workers to voluntarily return home without facing any serious legal actions.

Gulf countries cancel commercial flights as a new strain of Coronavirus emerges, putting the employees of the labor migration sector at risk of being out of work.

As the partially opened Tatopani border point hampers local businesses and the transportation sector, local residents demand that it open completely, staging a protest rally in Liping Bazaar.

As the government promises payment to sugarcane farmers in 21 days in a four-point agreement, the workers have called off their protest. The agreement also includes forming a technical committee. However, for the second time in years, Narayan Raya Yadav, one of the sugarcane farmers protesting in Kathmandu died of a heart attack.

Residents in Golanjor Rural Municipality, Sindhuli district, protested poor construction work along BP Highway. The protestors have said that the estimates and design of the project are not up to the mark.

Corruption: CIAA has reported that in 2076-77 B.S., there was corruption worth 2 arba 53 crore 66 lakh 98 thousand in the Special Court. Rabindra Prasad Yadav, a scribe for Ward-14 office in Ramgram Municipality, Nawalparasi, has been charged for taking bribes of Rs. 2,00,000. Engineer Pandav Prasad Dev, chief Rajkumar Shrivastav, and 4 others of Bagmati and Lalbakaiya River Management Plan in Parwanipur, Bara have been charged of faking receipts and using non-standard construction materials, hence making an illegal profit of Rs. 3,65,09,456 (Rs. 3.65 crores). Lalit Bahadur Shahi and eight others of Rastriya Banijya Bank in Tribhuwan Chowk, Nepalgunj, including employees and collateral evaluator have been charged with forging fake documents to make illegal profit.

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