News Digest – Democracy & Governance (February 4 – February 10)

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Politics & Democracy

KP Oli and the Mid-term Election: Prime minister KP Oli visited the Election Commission (EC) to inquire about the EC’s preparation for the elections and to express the government’s commitment to it. Sharing the history of the party and his political journey, PM Oli also claimed that only he has a legitimate claim over the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and its electoral symbol—the sun. The chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapaliya assured PM Oli that the EC has begun preparing for the election, which it believes will occur on the designated dates.

PM Oli also declared that the NCP has not split and that the EC should not interfere in the internal matters of a political party during election period. Many see PM Oli’s ‘order’ to the EC as an illegitimate use of his power in trying to corner his rival faction by getting the polling body to freeze the NCP and its election symbol.

After his visit to the EC, PM Oli met President Bidya Devi Bhandari, reportedly to share the February 8 Council decision; the Council decided that the first phase of the election will be conducted in 40 districts on April 30 and the second phase will be in 37 districts on May10.

The Bagmati provincial committee of NCP’s Oli faction organized a mass meeting in front of Narayanhiti Palace on February 5. Addressing the mass, PM Oli expressed his ‘commitment’ to Nepal’s federal democratic republic.’ Speaking at the same event, home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa challenged his ex-colleague Dahal and warned that anybody attempting to launch a ‘nonvegetarian’ struggle will be locked inside the zoo.

Foreign Minister Bishnu Poudel assured the EC that the government will provide the polling body NRs. 7 billion for the elections.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai opined that the Oli-led government cannot conduct the elections at any cost. Meanwhile, both opposition parties—JSPN and NC—have doubts on the possibility of an election; they seem worried if the recent political development is just a ploy to stall both election and a parliamentary reinstatement.

House Dissolution: The civil society protest, led by Narayan Wagle and Dr. Gobinda K.C., against the House dissolution continued in Kathmandu on February 6, 2021.

The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP has called a protest in Kathmandu on February 10, 2021, where they aim to bring over 200,000 protestors from all over the country.

Responding to the Nepali Congress (NC) secretary Shashank Koirala’s comment— that NC’s participation in a joint struggle against the House dissolution would be a loss for the party—Janata Samajawadi Party Nepal (JSPN)’s chief Dr. Baburam Bhattarai cautioned that nobody should try to escape a joint struggle.

As the country waits for the Supreme Court (SC)’s verdict on the House dissolution, observers and analysts worry that the country will be pushed to a deep crisis if the SC upholds PM Oli’s move. While it is practically difficult to hold the elections on the said dates, the Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP will likely intensify their protests and demonstrations if the governments pushes for election.

Miscellaneous: The Constitutional Bodies’ appointees ‘administered their oath of office and secrecy’ on February 3, 2021, which received a widespread criticism from political parties and observers for being undemocratic. PM Oli had appointed some 32 individuals in different constitutional bodies on December 15, 2020, by ‘unilaterally amending the Constitutional Council Act.

Governance & Corruption

The Supreme Court has ordered that cause needs to be shown while filing a writ against the opposition. A single bench of Justice Prakash Kumar Dhungana issued this order in the name of the opposition in a writ filed by Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota. Senior Advocate Krishna Prasad Bhandari and Senior Advocate Raman Shrestha argued on behalf of the petitioner. They claimed that they were illegally appointed to the constitutional body and demanded that the appointees be barred from working. Sapkota had filed the writ petition against the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice, the Office of the Constitutional Council, and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

The meeting of the state assembly was adjourned for two minutes after the NCP-Oli faction (Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai’s faction) announced the rules. The meeting lasted for only two minutes. The no-confidence motion registered against Chief Minister Rai could not be tabled even though it was on the agenda.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the government to bring the perpetrators of the murder of 17-year-old Bhagarathi Bhatta of Dogadakedar Village Municipality-7 of Baitadi to justice. In a statement issued, the commission called on the government to immediately conduct an impartial and effective investigation into the incident, take special care to protect witnesses, and gather evidence during the investigation, quickly identify the culprits, and bring them to justice.

The depth of Fewa Lake, overseen by the Water Resources and Irrigation Division Office in Kaski, has decreased by one meter after the dam of the lake became dilapidated. As the water level receded, the lower bank rose from four meters to 50 meters. The boats on the lake shore were buried in the muddy soil.

Dairy industrialists protested in the parliamentary committee after the government decided to attract foreign investment in agriculture. At a meeting of the Delegated Management and Government Assurance Committee, they complained that foreign investment would adversely affect the domestic agro-industry.

Prime Minister KP Oli has returned with information about the preparations for the election. With the election date already announced, the commission called on the prime minister to discuss preparations for the commission and the issue of party split. During the discussion, Chief Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya informed the Prime Minister that he was committed to hold the election on time.

The government has decided to hold elections in 40 districts in the first phase and 37 districts in the second phase. Announcing the Cabinet decision, government spokesperson Parbat Gurung said that in the first phase, elections will be held on April 29 in 40 districts of Gandaki, Lumbini and Far-Western Provinces and in the second phase on April 12.

Physical and academic preparations are being made for the National Defense University (NDU) to be operational after three years under the coordination of the Nepal Army. Classes will be conducted from the academic session 2080-81. The university has already started internal preparations for the construction of physical infrastructure and curriculum.

In order to curb human trafficking, the government mandated the consent of the family and the recommendation of the ward office as necessary for women going abroad alone on visit visas. The Immigration Department has sent a new procedure regarding visit visa with such provision to the Ministry of Home Affairs for approval.

The government is preparing to bring in a law to regulate social media. The Cabinet meeting has decided to issue a directive on social media, 2077 BS.

NCP-Prachanda-Madhav group’s protest rallies have begun. In the inaugural meeting at Bhrikuti Mandap, chairpersons Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal, spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, leaders Janardan Sharm among others addressed the rallies.

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