News Digest – Democracy & Governance (January 14 – January 20)

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Democracy & Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): Pushpa Kamal Dahal publicly asked PM Oli about India’s role in the parliamentary dissolution. He also expressed his ‘sense of comfort’ in having Madhav Nepal as the party chief. Similarly, Nepal claimed that Oli’s pride and authoritarian tendencies have exposed him like the ex-king.

Responding to the Election Commission (EC)’s demand, the Oli faction of NCP presented a letter, claiming legitimacy over the party, which they also argue has not split. On the other hand, the Dahal-Nepal faction wrote a letter to the EC asking the constitutional body to make an impartial decision regarding the party’s legitimate claim over the name and electoral symbol. The Dahal-Nepal group also asked proof of the government’s consultation with the EC before announcing the polling dates, as the law requires.

In his letter to the President recommending House dissolution, PM seems to have admitted that the current constitution has flaws and requires amendment. However, analysists claim that it is just his election tactic to woo Madhes and that he will not realistically be ready for a constitutional amendment. 

The Dahal-Nepal faction has strategized to intensify their protests and demonstrations in Kathmandu. To the same end, the group will launch a mass demonstration and assembly in Kathmandu on January 22, 2021. However, observers claim that the group “seems to be completely lost,” for it has failed to convince people to join their protest against PM Oli. Instead, in a speech addressing the All Nepal National Independent Student Union, Dahal said that “a vegetarian struggle” was not enough and insinuated that a violent movement was needed. Although the HoR dissolution was unconstitutional and undemocratic, experts claim, violent means to protest the move will be equally wrong.

The Judiciary on House Dissolution: The Constitution Bench overseeing the writs against the House dissolution rejected the lawyers’ plea to take the cases to an extended full bench, citing the sensitivity of the cases. This means the Constitutional Bench will continue the hearing itself.

In an intense question-answer between the senior advocate Bhimarjun Acharya and the justices, the Constitutional Bench hearing the House dissolution cases discussed the imaginary situation of whether the parliament could have formed a new government. PM Oli has been claiming that his government dissolved the parliament because there was no way to form an alternative government.

In the SC discussion, advocates questioned the government’s claim that it was forced to dissolve the House of Representatives due to the lack of support from the parliamentary party.

As the SC hears the cases against House dissolution, the Dahal-Nepal faction issued a joint appeal urging the judicial body to uphold the constitution by making an impartial decision.

Nepali Congress: In a “secret” meeting with the Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba on January 13, 2021, Dahal and Nepal proposed Deuba to collaborate with the Nepal-Dahal faction against PM Oli’s “unconstitutional” move. Reportedly, they even offered him the post of prime minister if the parliament is restored. Deuba replied that he would get back to the duo after a discussion within his party.

Deuba sought authenticity of NCP’s split, from the Dahal-Nepal group, before committing to a joint struggle against Oli or any other collaboration. The NC president pointed out that the NCP is still a single party officially.

In a meeting at senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel’s residence on January 18, 2021, NC president Deuba urged Poudel to be flexible regarding the internal disputes within the party.

Despite official offers from both Oli and Dahal-Nepal factions of the NCP—to lead the provincial government in either Province 1 or Bagmati Province—the opposition Nepali Congress seems divided and uncertain about which faction to form an alliance with. While Deuba tilts towards PM Oli, anti-Deuba factions and leaders have been vocal against Oli’s ‘unconstitutional’ move and want to rather collaborate with the latter faction of the NCP. The chief ministers of both the provinces will face vote of no confidence, which was registered soon after PM Oli dissolved the HoR, after the winter session of the provincial assembly starts on January 20, 2021.

Governance & Corruption

According to the Natural Disaster Management Committee, 685 houses, 2,238 drinking water projects, 12 health posts, 45 community schools, 222 irrigation canals, and 12 rural road sections were damaged by landslides in Kalikot.

The Department of Transport Management plans to ease the pressure off of driving licence tests, but critics say that this may increase the number of road accidents.

Amid delays, Nepal Examination Board postponed the date to publish grade 12 results by 10 more days.

The Department of Drug Administration, on January 15, granted emergency use approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and manufactured in India.

If the Supreme Court reinstates the House of Representatives that PM Oli dissolved on December 20, the general elections planned for April 30 and May 10 will not happen; however, the Election Commission is legally bound to prepare polls on the government announced date, and election materials are scheduled to arrive by mid-March.

Although Bharatpur Metropolitan City, in January 2018, had planned to build modern landfill sites on 15 bighas of land in Jaldevi forest in Ward no. 2, the project is still incomplete.

According to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure Development, the construction of 23 suspension bridges in Gandaki Province has been delayed due to a shortage of cables during the pandemic. A Rs. 20 million project of a 310-metre long bridge that connects Baglung and Parbat districts over Kali Gandaki River in Arjewa Sunasa Phant has been left unattended for the last nine months. Over 7000 individuals of both districts have been affected. Another Rs. 23.8 million project of a 243-metre long bridge connecting wards 1 and 10 of Besisahar Municipality in Lamjung has been delayed. Similarly, construction of another bridge over Daraudi Khola in Gorkha needs 5000-metre long cables for completion.

Although a study on waste burning found that valley municipalities burn 7,400 tonnes of waste per year or 20 tonnes of solid waste per day, which is three percent of total waste produced, the Department of Environment hasn’t addressed this issue properly.

An official at the Health Ministry said that Nepal is set to receive coronavirus vaccines from India under grant assistance, and the Ministry of External Affairs of India confirmed this.

Serum Institute of India produced the vaccine, Covishield, and Oxford University and Astrazeneca developed it.

Corruption: Employee Krishna Ale in Anbu office of Nepal Electricity Authority, Tanahu was charged with taking a bribe of Rs. 5000 from a customer for doing official work.

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