News Digest: Domestic Politics & Governance (July 1-7, 2021)

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Members participating in the meeting of the National Assembly held at the Federal Parliament Building, New Baneshwor. Photo: RSS

House Dissolution & The Judiciary

Defendants arguing in favor of the House dissolution claimed that the constitutional appointment of a prime minister is the president’s discretion and that her action should not be a matter of judicial review.

In an interaction with civil society leaders, writers, and experts on June 30, the opposition alliance accused Oli of threatening the judiciary.

The SC hearing against the House dissolution concluded on July 5, with divided arguments. The Constitutional Bench will sit on July 12 again, where the final verdict may be made.

Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML)

In an almost a last bid to court the Nepal faction back to the party, on June 30, Oli made a slew of decisions, including the ‘revival’ of the old Central Committee and scrapping of the convention organizing committee, withdrawal of the decision that removed dissenting leaders from the party. However, the Nepal faction called the move ‘too little too less,’ keeping the CPN-UML’s unity still an uncertainty. This was also apparent in the Nepal faction’s decision not to attend the Central Committee meeting on July 2 unilaterally called by Oli.

After a decisive conciliatory effort of the second-rank leaders on June 30, Madhav Nepal and KP Oli talked over phone on July 1, where the former asked the latter to postpone the Central Committee meeting—a move many speculate as a positive development in the party’s reconciliation.

In the Central Committee (CC) meeting, however, Oli directed the 23 lawmakers to withdraw their signatures from the Supreme Court’s petition against Oli—by 5 pm on July 5. Despite his warning that the party unity is not possible without withdrawing the signatures, the Nepal faction expressed its rigidity and reluctance to withdraw the signatures. Oli’s direction to the Nepal faction and the faction’s absence in the Central Committee meeting indicate that the party’s crisis is still nowhere close to an end.

At the party’s CC meeting, Mahesh Basnet presented ‘a proposal to review federalism and secularism,’ a move observers claim as Oli’s another populist tactic to appeal to the people at the cost of the current constitution. 

On July 5, after Oli’s ultimatum to withdraw signatures expired, CPN-UML revived the old task force to negotiate the differences. Many saw it as Oli’s move to woo the Nepal faction.
The task force started its meeting on July 6. The two main points of discussion were Oli’s demand to withdraw the signatures and Nepal’s to take the party back to pre-May 18, 2018 period. With the ‘positive developments’ in CPN-UML’s reconciliation efforts, the fate of the opposition alliance is now at stake.

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP)

Responding to Yadav faction’s claim of legitimacy over the party, which included a signature of majority central members, and its outright rejection by the Thakur faction, the Election Commission (EC) called both the factions on July 6 to offer the party a final opportunity to reconcile

In the EC-moderated meeting on July 6, JSP’s two factions failed to reach an agreement and instead decided to part ways by officially splitting the party.

Nepali Congress (NC)

The opposition Nepali Congress seems to have solved its active membership distribution-related dispute in the party; a senior-level party meeting on July 2 agreed to postpone the disputed membership till the next general convention and resolve all other disputes according to a consensus.

Miscellaneous

Amidst the ongoing political uncertainty and a sub judice House dissolution case in the Supreme Court, the Election Commission has continued its preparation to hold the election; after the Finance Ministry’s approval of Rs. 7.72 billion for the elections, the constitutional body is set to roll out the procurement process.

Netra Bikram Chand-led NCP Maoist expressed its concern with the government’s delay at implementing the agreement made between the two sides. The party’s spokesperson Prakanda said that the government will bear the harm if the agreement is not implemented.

Governance

Lawyers of defendants on the house dissolution case argued that president Bidya Devi Bhandari’s move to reject Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Sharma Oli’s bid towards prime ministerial power was justified by Article 76(5) of the constitution, which the lawyers say gives the president such powers.

The election commission announced the November midterm elections schedule. The general elections have been scheduled for November 12 and 19. Political parties will be able to start registering for the election starting from July 15, whereas the deadline for registering for the party is on July 30.

The constitutional bench of the supreme court completed the hearing of the house dissolution case on July 5, and the bench will sit again on July 12. It is uncertain when the bench will pass their verdict, however, it is highly probable that it will be passed on July 12.

On July 5, out of the four amici curiae invited by the constitutional bench, two presented their briefs supporting Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s May 21 house dissolution move, whereas two presented their views opposing the move. Nepal Bar Association had sent senior advocates Usha Malla Pathak and Raghab Lal Vaidya whereas Supreme Court Bar Association sent Prakash Bahadur KC and Komal Prakash Ghimire.

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