News Digest – Democracy & Governance (December 3 – December 9, 2020)

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Democracy (Internal Politics)

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): In the recent turn of events, PM Oli brought up the pending issue of Transitional Justice, arguable only as “a ploy to threaten his opponent”—Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

While PM Oli continues to threaten that he will not accept a majority decision, reports about NCP’s previous majority decisions have surfaced. Senior leader Madhav Nepal has so far accepted three majority decisions, while issuing note of dissents.

Amidst an internal pressure on both Oli and Dahal to scrap their individual political documents/proposals and come up with a joint proposal, president Bidya Devi Bhandari has once again stepped in to mediate the intra-party crisis; she met both Oli and Dahal and has been widely criticized for her ‘unconstitutional’ actions to manage a party crisis.

NCP’s Standing Committee meeting has been postponed till December 13 and the Central Committee meeting till December 20. In the December 6 Standing Committee meeting, which convened without Oli’s presence, both Oli’s and Dahal’s proposals were presented. To allow the members to study the proposals, the next meeting was called after a week.

Although he was absent in the December 13 Standing Committee meeting, PM and NCP chair Oli wrote a letter addressing the meeting, where he communicated his disapproval for entering Dahal’s proposal for discussion in the meeting. Apparently, that was the reason for his absence.

Observing the recent series of events, analysts and even NCP leaders admit that the party is hanging in the balance, where “it can neither split nor remain united.”

Nepali Congress (NC): In an interview, NC’s senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel blasted against the Oli’s government for being more autocratic than the Rana regime. Referring to his arrest in Tanahun, Poudel also said that while several leaders called him after the incident, Oli did not bother to make any call. At the inauguration event in Tanahun, Poudel had stated that Oli spent 14 years in prison due to a murder charge and not for democracy.

In an all-party meeting on December 8, called by PM Oli, the opposition Nepali Congress brought Oli and his government to attention about the growing discontent against the constitution and democracy. The party clarified that the government’s performance, NCP’s internal crisis, and PM Oli bear the responsibility for such anti-democratic voices. However, senior leader Poudel claims that even Nepali Congress is somewhat responsible for such regressive voice because the party could not fulfill its oppositional role well.

Others: While the NCP struggles and the government’s performance is compromised, the opposition Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN), like Nepali Congress, has proved ineffective and largely missing. Instead, they are lost in their own struggle “to figure out their goal, purpose, and ideology.”

As Bibeksheel Nepal Party and Sajha Party prepared to merge officially, 13 federal committee members of the Bibeksheel Party decided not to join the merger.

In the all-party meeting, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party expressed their complete agreement with the current constitution and suggested that monarchy and Hindu-state can be accommodated under the same constitution.

Governance

Corruption watch: A  civil engineer was caught asking Rs 75,000 for providing completion of construction certification papers for a house in Nuwakot.  A border patrol officer was caught with Rs 35,000 for facilitating transport of household goods in Kapilvastu.  A sub-engineer and six others were caught embezzling funds which were supposed to be allocated towards planting trees in Rajbiraj.  Sport ministry officials were caught forging a fake receipt and embezzling funds which were supposed to be used for repairing and maintaining a sports field in Saptari.

Governance: The government is considering extending deadlines for construction contracts as workers have refused to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the government agreed to extend deadlines in July, contractors have complained that they couldn’t benefit from the provisions.

Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel inaugurated a bridge over Buldi stream in Byas Municipality, Tanahun, on Thursday, but he was detained a day later.

The cabinet approved the Social Security Investment Working Procedures, 2020, which will allow the social security fund to provide loans to contributors.

Nepal government, set to receive USD 500 million for constructing cross-border transmission lines and improving roads under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), delays approving the MCC compact. As a result, the MCC stopped releasing funds for preparatory works since last September.

As the government failed to publicise the education commission report, majority members of the High-Level National Education Commission publicised the report on their own, citing government unaccountability. Update: The Ministry of Education dispatched letters to the United Nations, World Bank, and 14 other INGOs expressing displeasure over the publication of the report without their permission.

Residents of Baglung Municipality have been requesting the government to provide fire-trucks, but the request hasn’t been fulfilled, and the municipality only has one fire engine which is now defunct.

Government halts the process of acquiring tax/duty stickers, citing that domestically printed stickers may not meet the quality requirements and may be counterfeited, which would hurt the economy. Domestic printing companies are demanding priority. Without tax/duty stickers, the production and distribution of liquors and tobacco products in the country may be impacted.

Thatched roof houses in Karnali are at risk of fire hazard. Although Tilgufa Municipality in Kalikot had allocated Rs 3.5 million to replace the roofs with galvanized zinc sheets in the last fiscal year, the budget could only cover 99 houses.

Construction projects of road, hydroelectricity, transmission line, sub-station, bridge, and buildings in the district worth around Rs 13.16 billion has regained momentum after COVID-induced hiatus during the past nine months.

The government has started the construction of a waste processing facility in Saina Maina Municipality, Rupandehi, worth around Rs one billion which, according to authorities, will be able to process 400 tonnes of waste in a day.

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