News Digest – Democracy & Governance (February 18 – February 24, 2021)

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Politics & Democracy

The Supreme Court: House Reinstatement: Responding to the Supreme Court’s order regarding the contempt of court case filed against PM Oli, the prime minister presented himself at the SC on February 18. Two separate cases were filed against PM Oli for making ‘demeaning remarks against senior advocate Krishna Prasad Bhandari. Oli presented a written response to the court, where he claimed that he has utmost respect for the judiciary and that his words were taken out of the context to file the case against him. He also warned that the tendency of filing cases against the country’s chief executive for cheap popularity should be discouraged and controlled

Amidst an ongoing hearing against PM Oli for unconstitutionally dissolving the parliament, Nepal Army Chief Purna Chandra Thapa met Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, which raised many eyebrows in the capital city. Observers and Analysts suggests that this rare visit at such a time carried significant political message.

On 23 February 2021, the Supreme Court made a historic decision on the House dissolution case and ordered a parliamentary reinstatement. The court also ordered to begin parliamentary sessions within 13 days. Several political and civil society leaders thanked the Judiciary for upholding the constitution.

The Bibeksheel-Sajha Party has urged the prime minister and the president to resign on moral grounds, after the SC’s decision. However, the PM’s press advisor Surya Thapa told that KP Oli will not immediately resign from the post.

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): To dodge the two vote of no-confidence motion filed against the chief ministers of Province 1 and Bagmati Province, PM Oli has been trying to postpone the provincial assembly meetings. Experts are worried that the PM’s actions undermine federalism and democracy.

The Oli-led government is preparing to hold talks with the outlawed Netra Bikram Chand Biplab-led Nepal Communist Party.

PM Oli warned the Supreme Court that his party will launch a protest if the court reinstates the Lower House of the Federal Parliament. However, precedents show that the Judiciary has not succumbed to such threats in the past.

The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP made public a new criteria for their party, which scraps up the initial 60-40 agreement for the party merger between the erstwhile NCP-UML and NCP–MC. According to this new arrangement, both the groups will now have equal representation and leadership all the way to the party’s local structures/bodies.

Congratulating the SC for preserving the constitution, NCP leader and the party’s deputy-chief Bamdev Gautam demanded Oli and Dahal to call a secretariat meeting.

After the court’s decision, the Oli-faction of the NCP has called a Standing Committee meeting at 11 am on 24 February, whereas the Dahal-Nepal faction has called a meeting of the parliamentary party at 4 pm on the same day. 

Nepali Congress (NC): The opposition Nepali Congress decided to postpone its general convention to August 23, 2021. The two rival factions headed by party president Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel reached an agreement to hold the convention from August 23 to 26.

Nepali Congress demanded that the government publicize the COVID-19 vaccination details and timeline.

NC’s central committee member and ex-Industry Minister Navindra Raj Joshi expressed his concern about the decline in youth’s interest and participation in politics. He also presented four proposals to address the same issues, one of which includes ensuring at least 40 percent youth representation in all the mechanisms of the party.

NC president’s Deuba’s inclination for elections, over House reinstatement, rested upon his understanding that the restoration will buy the now-fragmented NCP time to reunite and hamper NC’ success in the next elections.

NC secretary Shashank Koirala suggested that the party should stop dreaming about the unlikely election and begin its preparation for the party’s general convention.

Miscellaneous: Addressing a crowd protesting the House dissolution, Bibeksheel-Sajha Party’s president Rabindra Mishra challenged that if his party were to form the government, PM Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and Sher Bahadur Deuba will be put behind bars in the Nakkhu prison.

Governance & Corruption

On February 24, 2021, the Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives by overturning Prime Minister KP Oli’s decision to dissolve the House on December 20 by ruling that Oli’s decision didn’t adhere to the constitution as per Articles 85, 76(1), and 76(7).

The Civil Society Movement (Brihat Nagarik Andolan), on February 19, 2021, released its manifesto on February 19, 2021. The group said that although their movement was fueled by the House dissolution, they plan to develop their group further.

An agreement between the government and recruiting agencies for foreign employers stated that they will now be able to set up their branch offices in all seven provinces.

An amendment in the Social Security Scheme Operating Procedures, 2019 has widened coverage of the scheme and access to facilities in the scheme.

The government decided to extend the school year by two months, now starting new academic new years in June instead of April. Under this scheme, the new school will last for 10 months.

On February 19, President Bidya Devi Bhandari replaced Tilak Pariyar with Rajesh Jha as Province 2 governor as per Article 165(1) of the constitution on the recommendation of the federal Council of Ministers.

Nangma-Gamgadhi road’s upgrade process has been halted because of lack of funds. Thus, this has made it difficult for transporters to send goods from district headquarters in Gamgadhi to remote areas in Chhayanath Rara Municipality.

The Communist Party of Nepal, an outlawed party, announced that it is willing to hold talks. General Secretary of Communist Party of Nepal, Netra Bikram Chand, issued the announcement in a press statement on February 27.

A project for a road from Phugling to Tiptala Bhanjyang has been halted for 18 days due to a lack of explosives needed to open up the road. Rajib Lamichhane, the site manager, mentioned that they are waiting for permission from authorities to procure the necessary equipment.

Purna Chandra Thapa, Chief of the Army, and Cholendra Shumsher, Chief Justice, held a meeting on February 22, which lasted about an hour. The meeting has stirred speculation about the agenda and intention of the meeting, which is unclear.

On February 22, staff of the Melamchi Water Supply project started testing the tunnel by releasing water into it from Helambu Rural Municipality-1, Sindhupalchwok, which channeled successfully up to 800 metres. The tunnel links to Kathmandu.

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