News Digest – Politics & Governance (February 25 – March 3, 2021)


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Democracy & Politics

House Restoration and the Nepal Communist Party (NCP): The secretariat of the Lower House began its preparation after the Supreme Court (SC) ruling to reinstate the parliament and resume parliamentary sessions within 13 days of the ruling—before March 7, 2021.

The SC order narrowed PM Oli’s possible moves—a resignation based on moral grounds being the most appropriate one. However, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali rejected such a possibility.

PM Oli’s decision to not step down and rather face no-confidence motion in both parliamentary party and in the parliament is likely to create difficulties in government formation. Legally, the NCP is not split yet, which means the SC’s decision has put the NCP politics back to the pre-dissolution time. The opposition Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal both seem to have adopted a wait and watch strategy, but a lack of clarity from the opposition parties has further complicated the situation. Oli also called off the Standing Committee meeting and challenged the rival faction to oust him if they can.

PM Oli appears to have two major strategies: a) win the vote of no-confidence in the parliament, and b) form a new government in Deuba’s leadership. On the other hand, the Dahal-Nepal faction wants to form a coalition government with both Nepali Congress and Janata Samajawadi Party, after ousting PM Oli through a vote of no-confidence—registering a new one if required.

The Dahal-Nepal faction decided not to take the old no-confidence motion forward. It will be filing a new one, possibly with the support of NC and JSPN.

NCP’s deputy chief Bamdev Gautam proposed Dahal to ‘respectfully’ remove Oli and pick a new prime minister from within the party.

Speaker Agni Sapkota assured that there will be an agreement among the parties and that the parliament will run smoothly, like it used to before.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari summoned parliamentary session on March 7, 2021. 

PM Oli removed Dev Gurung as party’s whip and replaced him with Bishal Bhattarai.

Speaking at a party worker’s gathering in Pokhara on February 28, 2021, PM Oli said that he will sit in the opposition if the rival faction removes him from the prime minister procedurally. He also claimed that he is facing physical threats and that his life is at a risk.

A secretariat meeting of the NCP’s Dahal-Nepal faction decided to hold Standing Committee and Central Committee meetings on March 3.

Both Oli and Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP have begun a horse trading race to solidify their position in the parliament. While the former has been offering ministerial posts and/or money to the MPs, the latter has been offering a promise for ministerial post.

NCP’s Legitimacy Dispute: Although the Supreme Court has restored the Lower House of the Federal Parliament, the Election Commission is yet to settle the NCP’s legitimacy dispute.

The dispute over the party’s name and symbol has been further complicated by Rishiram Kattel’s claim that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was registered wrongfully. Kattel had a party named Nepal Communist Party already registered in the Election Commission, due to which the Oli-Dahal group had to register their merger as Nepal Communist Party (NCP)—NCP within the brackets. If the SC decides in Kattel’s favor, the NCP may go back to its pre-merger state, with Oli heading the NCP–UML and Dahal the NCP–MC.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal claimed that the legitimacy dispute is almost over and that EC will soon decide in his faction’s favor—handing them the legitimacy over NCP’s name, flag, and electoral symbol.

Nepali Congress (NC): Nepali Congress youth leader and lawmaker Gagan Thapa warned that his party should not join the government and instead work to impeach the president. He also stated that the party’s current state of confusion is due to the statements from the party’s senior leadership. 

Nepali Congress currently enjoys a special position in the parliament, without which forming a new government (if the NCP splits legally) is numerically impossible. Although the party is still weighing its options, due to his understanding that only Oli can split the communist party, NC president Deuba inclines towards a possible coalition with the Oli faction. However, the party is open to both factions of the NCP.

Nepali Congress has expressed its willingness to “help” the government if it introduces a new bill to help split the NCP.

Nepali Congress seems to be mulling over four options: a) NCP’s split owing to SC’s decision in Kattel’s favor, b) EC’s decision on NCP’s legitimacy dispute, c) Oli’s move to split the party, and d) early election after a temporary understanding with Oli.

Nepali Congress missed its revised schedule to complete its party adjustment process in Sindhupalchowk, Bara, and Saptari districts by February 27, 2021.

Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN): The JSPN sought clarification from the Dahal-Nepal faction, which approached the party for a possible collaboration on registering a no-confidence motion against PM Oli and forming a coalition government. According to JSPN leader Rajendra Mahato, the faction should provide clarity on the status of Nepal Communist Party and whether/how a coalition is possible.

Biplab and the Government: The parliamentary reinstatement affected the dialogue between the outlawed Netra Bikram Chand Biplab-led NCP and the government.

Biplab has formed a two-member team to hold dialogues with the government. The team is headed by its spokesperson Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma–Prakanda and has Udaya Chalaune–Deepak as the other member.

The government also formed a two-member team led by Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. PM Oli’s foreign affair’s advisor Dr. Rajan Bhattarai is also the member. 

The first phase of the dialogue on March 3 ended on a “positive” note, according to Dr. Rajan Bhattarai.

Miscellaneous: Three international human rights organizations—Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, and Amnesty International—issued a joint statement urging the government to rescind its ‘unlawful’ appointments to major constitutional bodies.

Governance & Corruption

In order to win the vote of confidence, Oli needs the support of 55 lawmakers, hence he needs the support of Nepali Congress. Similarly, if the Dahal-Nepal faction wants to get a vote of no-confidence against Oli and appoint Dahal as the new prime minister, they also need the support of Nepali congress.

Chair of Nepal Communist Party, Rishiram Kattel, filed a writ petition to cancel the move made by the Election Commission to give Nepal Communist Party (NCP) name to Oli and Dahal, arguing that the name already registered with the Election Commission under Kattel’s name.

Even though the House has been restored, the Election Commission needs to settle the intra-party dispute of the Nepal Communist Party between factions led by KP Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and Madhav Kumar Nepal.

On February 26, the government recommended that the federal parliament be commenced starting from March 7. The constitutions states that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of the House.

Even though house reinstatement led to the elections being cancelled, the Election Commission reportedly spent Rs. 100 million on preparing for elections initially scheduled for April 30 and May 10. Kathmandu Post cited analysts saying that this can be considered as corruption.

Nepal is expected to have surplus power after the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is completed. In the Procedure for Approval and Facilitating Import/Export (Cross Border) of Electricity by Designed Authority, India introduces provisions which will allow Nepal to export surplus power to India.

As House sessions will resume on March 7, federal parliament staff and lawmakers are going to get vaccinated on March 2 to 4.

As Thai Airlines has become bankrupt, outbound postal service hasn’t been in place for a year. There is a legal process to terminate the contract with Thai Airlines. However, postal service to India, which stopped in March last year, resumed in February this year.

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