News Digest – Domestic Politics & Governance (May 6-12)

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Prime Minister Oli addressing the House of Representative on May 10. Photo: RSS

PM Oli and the Vote of Confidence

Only days before the vote of confidence, PM Oli visited NC president Deuba’s residence, on May 5, and urged him to either support him in the vote or agree to a power-sharing deal; Oli was hinting at a parliamentary dissolution and early election if an alternative government cannot be formed. Deuba refused both the offers.

Leaders from the CPN–UML’s Khanal–Nepal faction agreed to resign en masse before the vote of confidence on May 10, which would make it easier for the opposition forces to topple Oli and form an alternative government. The faction also nominated Dr. Khim Lal Devkota as a candidate for the National Assembly election, in the opposite of Oli’s Ram Bahadur Thapa. Devkota’s candidacy was agreed and supported by other opposition parties too.

The Khanal–Nepal faction took a step back from resigning and instead decided to stay absent from the vote, which they speculated would be enough to defeat Oli.

CPN–UML’s chief whip Bishal Bhattarai warned that a violation of the party’s whip will be punishable. He said that the party’s central committee will punish those who violate the party’s whip to vote in PM Oli’s favor. Meanwhile, PM Oli himself urged dissatisfied party leaders to vote for him and discuss if there are any issues or problems.

PM Oli lost the vote of confidence on May 10, 2021. From a total of 232 lawmakers present at the federal parliament, 93 voted in Oli’s favor, while 124 voted against him. Meanwhile, 15 lawmakers from the JSP’s Thakur–Mahato faction stayed neutral. 28 lawmakers from CPN–UML’s Khanal–Nepal faction were absent.

Forming an Alternative Government

Opposition Nepali Congress and Maoist Centre decided to form a coalition government according to Article 76.2 of the Constitution if Oli lost the vote of confidence. However, after Khanal–Nepal faction’s decision not to resign and Janata Samajwadi Party‘s decision not to vote against Oli, NC president Deuba, too, has been skeptical about the formation of an alternative government.

As soon as PM Oli lost the vote in the parliament, Nepali Congress, Maoist Centre, and JSP’s Yadav faction had issued a joint statement urging the president to invoke Article 76.2 of the Constitution and pave a path for an alternative coalition government. Accordingly, president Bhandari issued a notice for the same and asked the opposition parties to present their claim for an alternative government by 9 pm on May 13.

Despite the rival faction’s determination to form an alternative government,  JSP’s president Mahant Thakur issued a statement saying that the party will not join the alternative coalition because it is not the party’s objective. The two factions’ differing stances have led the party towards a possible split soon.

To form an alternative government, the current political scenario leaves Deuba with two options: a) court Mahant Thakur and get JSP’s undivided support, or b) seek help from CPN–UML’s Khanal–Nepal faction, whose resignation will pave a path for government formation. 

Constitutional Council Ordinance and Appointments

Stepping on the controversial Constitutional Council ordinance, which was re-introduced recently, PM Oli appointed several officials in different constitutional bodies including the Public Service Commission (PSC). The meeting, which had only the PM, the Chief Justice, and the NA chief, —but no opposition leader or the Speaker—recommended ex-secretary Madhav Regmi as the chief of the PSC.

Governance and Corruption

Although there were 9,023 newly reported coronavirus cases and 50 deaths (3,579 total) on May 7, Prime Minister KP Oli, on May 8, told CNN that the covid-19 situation is under control in Nepal. This remark has been met by growing criticism.

A meeting of the Constitutional Council chaired by KP Oli recommended 18 names for appointments to various constitutional bodies on May 9, however,  opposition leader and member of council Sherbahadur Deuba as well as House Speaker Agni Sapkota skipped the meeting.

40 Provincial Assembly members from Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha filed a no-confidence motion against Lumbini chief minister Shankar Pokharel for the second time on May 9. Pokharel had dodged the first no-confidence motion vote when he resigned as chief minister, however, h was reappointed as leader of the majority Provincial Assembly party, making it possible for a second vote of no-confidence.

As many as 26 lawmakers infected in the parliament have been infected with covid-19. The parliament secretariat has arranged a special hall for those tested positive to vote on PM KP Oli’s confidence motion. A PCR test is now required before entering the house.

Gandaki Province Chief Minister Prithivi Subba Gurung resigned a day before a confidence vote was scheduled to take place. The vote was first tabled at the provincial assembly on April 26. Provincial Chief Sita Kumari Poudel called for forming a new government under Article 169(3) of the constitution.

As Chief justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana refused  to hear a petition against ordinance on the Constitutional Council Act, experts have said that Rana committed judicial misconduct while doing so.

Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal faction changed their plan to resign together. They decided to not vote in Prime Minister Oli’s confidence motion instead of resigning.

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