News Digest – Politics and Governance (April 29-May 5, 2021)

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PM Oli’s Game of Throne

Withdrawing 120 cases against individuals facing charges related to the Madhes/Tharuhat movement, the government created a positive environment for Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal’s (JSPN) Thakur–Mahato faction to reach an agreement.

In a rather surprising manner, on May 2, Prime Minister (PM) Oli decided that he will take a vote of confidence in the federal parliament on May 10. Following the cabinet’s decision, President Bidya Devi Bhandari immediately proceeded to summon the House of Representatives at 1 pm on May 10. With little chance to obtain a majority vote in his favor, PM Oli wants to push the country towards an early election, as the formation of an alternative government is equally unlikely.

CPN–UML’s Khanal–Nepal Faction

A meeting of CPN–UML’s Khanal–Nepal faction, on April 28, decided to temporarily halt all their activities against PM Oli and support the party’s leadership on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following Oli’s sudden decision, lawmakers close to CPN–UML’s Khanal–Nepal faction are discussing whether they should resign en masse instead of being forced out of the party for crossing the floor against PM Oli.

A Divided Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN)

After the Yadav–Bhattarai factions decision to penalize Lumbini lawmakers and to sign against PM Oli in the vote of no-confidence, the Janata Samajawadi Party Nepal(JSPN) has neared a likely split; the rival Thakur–Mahato faction, that opposed the rival faction’s move to expel Lumbini lawmakers in the Election Commission, has been willing to support Oli if their demands are met.

After the Yadav–Bhattarai faction’s decision to go against PM Oli, the Thakur–Mahato faction also collected signatures from the party’s Central Working Committee members and lawmakers. The signatures were collected on an empty sheet, which is believed to serve multi-purpose by taking an official count of its supporters—in Oli government’s favor, to change parliamentary leader, or to even split the party.

CPN–Maoist Centre

A standing committee meeting of the CPN–MC on May 4 decided to withdraw its support to PM Oli-led government.

Nepali Congress (NC)

NC president Deuba blamed the government for the massive surge in Covid-19 infections throughout the country; he said that the government did not take necessary steps in time, for instance, enforcing a mandatory PCR test before people left Kathmandu valley for their homes.

At a press conference on April 30, NC president Deuba admitted that they do not have the required number in the parliament for a successful vote of no-confidence against PM Oli. He was referring to a divided JSPN, which makes it impossible to form an alternative government despite the support of majority JSPN lawmakers. With this, Deuba ruled out no-confidence motion against PM Oli.

The opposition Nepali Congress, on May 4, decided to vote against PM Oli in the scheduled vote of confidence on May 10.

Pokhrel resigned to avoid no-confidence motion

Lumbini Chief Minister Shankar Pokhrel had resigned on May 2 to avoid a no-confidence motion. His resignation was approved by Lumbini Provincial Chief Dharma Nath Yadav as per Article 169(1). Pokhrel had sought to create a new government under his leadership according to Article 168(1) “The provincial chief shall appoint the leader of the Parliamentary Party commanding a majority in the Provincial Assembly as the chief minister, and the Provincial Council of Ministers shall be constituted under his or her chairpersonship.”

Khatri switching parties; UML’s majority receded

Shankar Pokhrel’s party, UML, had 41 seats, enough to have a majority in the 81 member Provincial Assembly, however, Bimala Khatri, one of the party members, decided to change parties and be with Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) instead. Therefore, UML only has 40 seats, not enough to have a majority and not enough to claim the government under their leadership as per Article 168(1) (quoted above).

Pokhrel reappointed as chief minister amid protests

However, Shankar Pokhrel was reappointed as Lumbini chief minister following protests from opposition parties as per Article 168(1) of the constitution. After the reappointment, KP Oli held an emergency meeting with the party’s Standing Committee, and he also held talks with President Bidya Devi Bhandari in Sheetal Niwas.

UML Provincial Assembly members claim Khatri’s party switch not valid

UML Provincial Assembly members have claimed that Bimala Khatri attended UML’s Parliamentary Party meetings and her signatures are in the minutes, so her decision to switch parties at the last minute is not valid.

Pandey losing faith in the party

Similarly, Dug Narayan Pandey resigned as a UML Provincial Assembly member following the above-mentioned events.

Miscellaneous

Nepal Communist Party’s Biplab suggested that the government mobilize volunteers in the fight against pandemic; he also offered to help by deploying his party cadres.

Only days prior to the federal parliament reconvenes, president Bhandari, on May 4, endorsed seven ordinances, including the controversial Constitutional Council ordinance.

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