News Digest: Democracy & Governance (February 11 – February 17)

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Politics & Democracy

House Dissolution: Stating that democracy has been “murdered” in Nepal, NCP chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal sought international community’s support to save Nepal’s democracy.

The Chand-led Nepal Communist Party showed its readiness to sit for talks with the government. However, the Oli-led government fears that the party will join NCP’s rival faction and, therefore, is yet to respond to the proposal.

PM Oli’s lawyers argued that the prime minister is equal to a king or Shree 3—a title used to address the autocratic Rana prime ministers—and, therefore, has the right to dissolve the parliament.

PM Oli reasserted that his government faced challenge from within the party, as some leaders tried to run a parallel government alongside his.

Speaking in the Supreme Court from Speaker Agni Sapkota’s side, three lawyers argued that the prime minister did not face obstacle from the parliament and stressed that the PM’s move is unconstitutional.

On February 16, the Supreme Court started hearing from the amicus curiae, who argued that dissolving the parliament due to internal party disputes is unconstitutional.

Chitra Bahadur K.C., Rashtriya Janamorcha‘s president, warned that if PM Oli is not stopped, he will rule the country as a dictator by declaring an emergency. Therefore, Oli should be brought down through street demonstrations and protests, he argued.

Ram Kumari Jhakri’s Arrest: The police arrested Ram Kumari Jhakri—a prominent youth leader from NCP’s Dahal-Nepal faction—on charges of ‘crime against the state.’ According to the police, she was arrested for interrogation related to her ‘offensive remarks’ against the president in one of her public speeches.

Several leaders including NCP’s Pushpa Kamal Dahal, NC’s Ram Chandra Poudel, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party’s president Kamal Thapa, and Janata Samajwadi Party’s Dr. Baburam Bhattarai condemned the government for arresting Jhakri and demanded her immediate release. There were Dahal-Nepal faction’s protests in Kathmandu, and a case was filed in the Supreme Court demanding Jhakri’s release.

Jhakri was released after a few hours the same day. She repeated her stance on President Bidya Devi Bhandari and clarified that she has all the respect for the institution of presidency.

Observers fear that Jhakri’s arrest is yet another manifestation of Oli administration’s ‘intent to curb free speech.’

Nepali Congress (NC): NC president Deuba repeated that Nepali Congress cannot speak on the issue that is still being discussed in the Supreme Court. He also instructed his party leaders and workers to stay prepared for both House restoration and election.

Nepali Congress has called the party’s Central Committee meeting at 2 pm on February 17 to discuss the uncertain general convention and the current political situation.

Nepali Congress issued a press statement on February 14 and urged the government to hold talks with China regarding the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point, where some 1500 containers are stranded. China has been allowing only five containers a day to enter Nepal.

The Election Commission: Through a written letter registered in the commission, the Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP questioned the Election Commission why the body is delaying to resolve the party dispute.

Despite questions regarding impartiality, the EC continues to prepare for the polls in May, which the Dahal-Nepal faction claims is useless until the body solves the legitimacy dispute.

Even NC president Deuba urged the EC to solve the NCP dispute over their election symbol.

Miscellaneous: Four Communist parties—led by Netravikram Chand Biplab, Mohan Vaidya, Vishwabhakta Dulal Aahuti, and Rishiram Kattel—declared a strategic joint front, with a possible party unification in the future. They have laid out the plans to lead the country towards to ‘Scientific Socialism’ by forming an alternative government.

The Dahal-Nepal faction issued a circular to observe “People’s War Day” on February 13.

Tripura Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)leader Biplab Dev stirred a controversy when he claimed that Indian Home Minister Amit Shah once shared his ambitions to expand BJP to India and China. Nepal issued a formal objection letter to Dev’s controversial remarks.

Governance & Corruption

The government has not responded yet to Biplab group’s invitation for a meeting. Although the two factions of Nepal Communist Party are trying to approach the group, the ruling party has not, since they fear the group might gain traction.

The hearing process for House dissolution may take up to February 17. Lawyer representatives of Speaker Sapkota would give hearings to members of the bench. However, when the hearing will occur is uncertain.

Although Pushpa Kamal Dahal has sought international support to curb the political situation in Nepal, countries such as China, India, US, and UK, have chosen to remain quiet about the issue.

Ram Kumari Jhakri had been taken into custody for remarks against the Presidents during a speech in Gorkha for alleged “crimes against the state.” She was later released after widespread criticism against this move.

In a press statement, Amnesty International Nepal has flagged the recent policy proposal about Nepali women under 40 needing permission from parents and ward office for travelling to foreign countries as discriminatory against Nepal’s international human rights obligations.

The Department of Information Technology’s controversial Information Technology Bill in parliament would give authorities the power to regulate morality and decency in social media.

The government has started adding to the public holiday list. However, this is a change after it was shortened for two years.

Bureaucrats, police officers, and other secretary transfers from the Oli government are in progress before the elections. Since officials have been shown to influence elections, this move is coming into question.

Although the poll body is preparing for elections, however, Nepal Communist Party’s conflicts are ongoing. The Dahal-Nepal faction said that internal party conflicts must be resolved before elections.

Although the audit for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was scheduled for 2019, it has been continuously postponed, and experts say that the audit is unlikely to take place even until 2022.

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