News Digest: Domestic Politics & Governance (June 17-23, 2021)

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Judicialization of Politics

In response to the Supreme Court’s demands of written clarification about the May 21 House dissolution, both the President Bhandari and PM Oli defended their positions; while the former argued that the President’s decision ‘cannot be a subject of judicial review,’ the latter claimed that the Court cannot decide who the prime minister should be. Meanwhile, Speaker Sapkota maintained that the House dissolution move was unconstitutional. The House dissolution cases will be heard in the SC from June 23—uninterrupted.

On June 22, the Supreme Court issued an interim order against PM Oli’s ‘post House dissolution’ Cabinet expansion (twice) and scrapped all the appointments made unconstitutionally. As a result, the current Cabinet has been limited to five ministers. While PM Oli argued that there has been excessive politicization in the Supreme Court, others have lauded the Court’s decision for taming Oli’s authoritarian efforts and tendencies.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurating a program organized at the Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwatar on the occasion of the 7th International Yoga Day. Photo: Prime Minister’s Private Secretariat

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

Some leaders of the CPN-UML claimed that a verbal agreement to return to May 16, 2018, was made and that the party split could be avoided if PM Oli stuck to his words.

While the CPN–Maoist Centre seeks to accelerate actions against the defected party leaders who joined Oli’s CPN-UML, the leaders are facing their own challenges in their new party. They have lost not only their lawmakers’ posts but also CPN-UML’s central committee membership and ministerial portfolios, which has created an uncertainty among the leaders.

Prime minister and CPN-UML chief KP Oli registered a vacate motion in the Supreme Court contesting and seeking reevaluation of the Court’s decision that delegitimized the party’s 10th General Convention Organizing Committee. Leaders from the Khanal-Nepal faction claim that PM Oli’s decision to register the vacate motion has undone the progress made during the unification negotiations.

Nepali Congress (NC)

In the party’s Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting, NC president Deuba stressed that there is no alternative to holding the general convention by September. He had been criticized of late for showing lack of willingness to hold the party’s 14th general convention. The party also decided to extend the deadline to renew active membership by a week as well as to continue the five-part alliance by making it stronger.

Nepali Congress has decided to hold its 14th general convention will in Kathmandu from 1 to 4 September, 2021.

With an approaching general convention, the race for party’s presidential candidacy is at a peak; even from the Deuba faction, Deuba’s long-time confidante Bimalendra Nidhi has decided to contest. Although Nidhi sought Deuba’s support, the latter maintained that he has already decided to run himself and has made preparations accordingly.

While Deuba continued his province-wise meetings of NC’s CWC members, on June 21, Nidhi met Shashank Koirala and Prakash Man Singh—the other two influential leaders eyeing party presidency—which has generated different speculations. However, CWC members ensured that Deuba is their choice of party president; he just needs to convince Nidhi.

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP)

After the Election Commission (EC) declined to recognize JSP’s Yadav faction’s decision to expel four leaders of the Thakur faction, the former has submitted an application to the EC seeking legitimacy over the party. Following the legal provision, the EC has sent a copy of the submitted documents to Mahant Thakur and asked him to present his written clarifications within 15 days.

Although Mahant Thakur claimed that the party’s Central Working Committee meeting of 22 December 2020 had chosen him JSP’s first president, the post-meeting statement shows nothing of sorts. 

Miscellaneous

On June 18, President Bhandari summoned the Home minister and all security chiefs at Sheetal Niwas to get a briefing about floods and landslides in the country. However, the ‘executive’ fashion of the move was widely criticized for being ‘unnatural’ and extra-constitutional.

On June 22, the five-party alliance issued a joint statement and expressed an urgency to take a joint action against PM Oli’s continuous assault on the country’s constitution and democracy. The alliance accused Oli of threatening the Judiciary and trying to have undue influence over the Election Commission.

Governance

The government plans to extend the terms of two transitional justice commissions–Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared within the next two weeks. Their terms were also extended by six months last February.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, on Thursday, presented an 18-point response which stated that formation of the government is a political process and so the supreme court should not be able to carry this out. Oli formulated this response after the constitutional bench demanded one about his decision to dissolve the house of representatives on May 21.

On June 18, Krishna Chandra Nepali secured a voted of 31 votes cast in favor, and 27 against, in the provincial assembly, in a vote of confidence to be chief minister of Gandaki province. 59 members including speaker Adhikari were present during the provincial assembly meeting.

A policy to extract stones, pebbles, and sand was about to be implemented for the fiscal year 2021-22, however, the supreme court put out an interim order that the government should not implement this policy. The supreme court cited Article 30, which says that every citizen has the right to a clean environment and that extracting stones, pebbles, and sand would harm the environment.

The supreme court, on June 22, cancelled two of KP Sharma Oli’s cabinet expansions, which had taken place on June 4 and June 10 and had inducted 17 ministers. As a result of the supreme court’s invalidation of these two cabinet expansions, 20 ministers were relieved of their responsibilities. In response to this move, Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and Justice Prakash Kumar Dhungana said that after the house was dissolved, it was unconstitutional to carry out cabinet expansions as per Article 77(3), which states that if a prime minister fails to win a vote of confidence or resigns, the same council of ministers will continue until another is constituted.

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