News Digest: Domestic Politics & Governance (June 3-9, 2021)

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Nepal’s political parties are so engulfed in either internal crises or in their spat with other parties that they have no regard for the people struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP), Nepal

The Election Commission (EC) requested additional documents and proofs from both factions of the JSP before making a decision. Both factions had expelled party leaders from the rival group and had notified the EC to remove the names from the official party registration book. Given its long delay before deciding on Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’s dispute, the EC’s quick action in JSP’s case came into question for having a ‘selective approach.’

JSP’s Thakur–Mahato decided to extend their support to PM Oli’s ‘caretaker’ government, following which 10 of its leaders were included in the Oli Cabinet. This move further aggravated the JSP’s factional divide and has virtually split the party. Meanwhile, a meeting of the opposition coalition on the same day, June 4, concluded that Oli had been taking one controversial step after another. The coalition also decided to strengthen their alliance and collectively move forward. Later, they issued a joint statement outlining four accusations against PM Oli.

The newly elected deputy prime minister Rajendra Mahato came under controversy after his remarks about Nepal being a ‘multi-national state.’

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

Leaders Surendra Pandey, Ghanashyam Bhusal, Gokarna Bista, and Yogesh Bhattarai, who had been in dialogues with the Oli faction, briefed that Oli is willing to return to 16 May 2018 if the Khanal–Nepal faction withdraws its signatures that support Deuba for PM. However, leader Madhav Nepal suspected that Oli’s willingness was nothing but a ploy to remain in power. With Nepal’s reluctance to accept Oli’s offer and the second-generation leaders’ inclination to save the party’s unity, even the Khanal–Nepal faction faced a difference of opinions. PM Oli’s current strategy also revolves around dividing the rival faction and pulling the influential second-rank leaders to his group.

CPN–UML’s Oli faction issued a statement and warned the members not to attend the virtual Central Committee meeting called by the ‘unauthorized’ Khanal–Nepal faction on June 3. The latter faction’s meeting decided to simultaneously continue dialogues with the Oli faction and its party reorganization campaign.  

On June 6, PM and CPN–UML chief KP Oli issued a statement unilaterally and decided to take the party back to its pre-May 19, 2018 state. The statement also declared that the signatures that sought to make Deuba the PM will be withdrawn. However, the cynical rival faction expressed its discontent and maintained that the signatures will not be withdrawn. The faction has further continued the pressure on Oli by not only sticking with the opposition coalition but also neutralizing most of Oli’s moves, be it at the federal or provincial level.

CPN–UML’s deputy chief Bamdev Gautam issued a statement and urged PM Oli to hold a discussion in the party’s Standing Committee, which constitutes members from its  May 18, 2018, state. 

Calling Oli’s six-point proposal deceitful, uncertain, and illusionary, leader Madhav Nepal has begun final preparation to establish a new party with the intent to revive a ‘comprehensive communist unity’.

Nepali Congress (NC)

NC’s Poudel faction is putting pressure on party president Deuba to hold the General Convention by pre-allocated dates—August 23 to 27. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the leadership’s interest to stay in power make the convention uncertain. Meanwhile, the party’s district presidents questioned the Deuba’s ‘unbalanced and biased’ role in the party.

Governance

Chief justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana facilitated the reconstitution of the Constitutional Bench. The five-member bench was formed to hear the House dissolution case of May 21, which was reconstituted so that justices were included on the basis of seniority. The bench now includes Deepak Kumar Karki, Mira Khadka, Ishwor Khatiwada, and Ananda Mohan Bhattarai.

After Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana reconstituted the bench on a seniority basis,  KP Oli’s lawyers demanded that two justices be expelled because they seem to have taken an impartial position, further stating that the current House dissolution is connected to the verdict that took place on March 7. The Constitutional Bench is hearing petitions on the May 21 House dissolution.

The Constitutional Bench formed on May 28 to start hearing petitions against the May 21 House dissolution still has not started hearing the petitions even after two weeks of being constituted. Disagreements over the composition of the bench and the impartiality of Justices Tej Bahadur KC and Bam Kumar Shrestha is causing this delay.

The government changed the criteria for appointing ambassadors. Currently,  political appointees don’t need a bachelor’s degree in order to be appointed as an ambassador. This move has come under criticism and scrutiny by experts, who have remarked that diplomatic efforts, especially during the time of covid, should be handled by qualified professionals.

The Election Commission invited two factions of Janata Samajbadi Party for discussions on June 3. Although the poll body didn’t act promptly on the Nepal Communist party (now no longer in function), it quickly decided on Janata Samajbadi Party’s issues. Experts have pointed out the difference in the two scenarios.

Analysts have said that although the upper house should carry a higher degree of responsibility after the lower house was dissolved on May 21, it has recently become inactive. Experts have criticised this inactivity of the National Assembly, remarking that it is not pulling its weight during times of political uncertainty.

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