Tuesday 29 June 2021

Testing Times for Democracy in Nepal

-Nihar R Nayak

The President of Nepal, Bidya Devi Bhandari, on May 22, exercising her power under Article 76(7) on the advice of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, dissolved the House of Representatives or the Lower House of the Nepal Parliament and announced fresh elections. This decision was taken after political parties failed to form a new government under Article 76(5) of the constitution. The president’s office in a statement said: “While considering the fact that same members have been counted on both sides [K.P. Sharma Oli and Sher Bahadur Deuba], members have supported one another against the party decision and request from the concerned party to disregard their support … both the claims to obtain vote of confidence of the House of Representatives as per the Article 76(5) of the Constitution to be appointed as the Prime Minister do not stand valid.”1 Therefore, neither of them could form a new government by May 21 (9:00 pm), as per the deadline set by the President a day before.   

This is the second time the House has been dissolved in last five months. Previously, it was dissolved in December 2020. The Supreme Court, however, had reinstated the House on February 23, 2021, after hearing over a dozen writ petitions questioning the decision to dissolve the House.

Like last year, this time too, the decision to dissolve the House was met with overwhelming resistance from across the Nepali society and the opposition parties. The latter criticised the decision as being authoritarian and anti-constitutional. Prime Minister Oli did not follow the laid out constitutional procedures like testifying confidence in the House within 30 days. He also did not resign after losing the confidence motion on May 10 and again on May 20 this year. The opposition criticised President Bhandari for showing parochialism and also allocating a very short time (21 hours) to the opposition parties to form the government. They have filed writ petitions in the Supreme Court against the decision and a constitutional bench has been formed under the Chief Justice along with four senior judges of the Supreme Court. 

The Unfolding Crisis

Despite the promulgation of a new constitution in September 2015, which was supposed to provide political stability, the country has witnessed a recurring political crisis. The top leaders, often, were more interested in grabbing power by punishing rival factions within the party, splitting parties, and stoking anti-India sentiments to shore up nationalism and hide incompetence. In this context, one needs to analyse three major factors that have precipitated the constitutional crisis in Nepal.

First, the intensification of factional conflict in the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP) due to the failure of the power-sharing deal between the Oli and the Pushp Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda faction. The said political deal was concluded before the formation of the NCP, which came into being with the merger of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Maoist Centre (MC) in May 2018.  As per the deal, it was agreed that: (1) the two leaders would equally share the prime ministerial tenure, 2) Prachanda would hold the co-chairmanship of the NCP with executive powers, (3) sharing of cabinet seats should be in accordance with the pre-election deal (60:40, the CPN-UML got 60 per cent seats and the MC got 40 per cent seats), and (4) the prime minister and the chairman of the party would consult the senior leaders in party matters.2

Since the formation of the NCP, the top leaders of the party have often accused each other of not abiding by the deal. Factionalism reached its zenith in April 2020, when Oli issued an ordinance on the Political Parties Act.3 The objective was to demonstrate his dominant position in the government and within the party to his rival factions. The motive was also to split both the NCP and also the smaller parties of the Terai region who would join the government in case the rival faction led by Prachanda withdraws support. Most importantly, the Chinese initiative of a new power-sharing agreement between Oli and Prachanda in September 2020 could not prevent the party from forming two separate organisational structures within the NCP.

The intra-party factionalism came to an end after the Supreme Court scrapped the merger of the CPN-UML and the MC on March 7, 2021. However, the legacy of factionalism reappeared in the revived CPN-UML. It is believed that the anti-Oli faction led by Madhav Kumar Nepal had voted against the Oli Government on May 10. Some media reports in fact hinted that Madhav Kumar Nepal’s faction of the CPN-UML had allegedly supported a Nepali Congress (NC)-led initiative to form a new government under Article 76(5) on May 20, 2021.4

Second, there has been a lack of clarity on the interpretation of Article 76 and related clauses as the constitution is silent on the following issues:

    • There is no mention of the ‘resignation’ of the Prime Minister after losing the vote of confidence.
    • There is also no mention of the ‘requirement of signatures’ of the Members of Parliament (MP) in the government formation claim document after the failure of the Prime Minister to prove the majority under article 76(2, 3 and 5).
    • The article and related clauses are also silent about whether a government that has lost the confidence vote could form the government again. Similarly, the article does not specify the number of days to be allocated by the President to form a new government.
    • There is also confusion about whether the Prime Minister who has lost confidence can advise the President to dissolve the House. For example, under article 76(5), until and unless the process for a new government formation is completed, the Prime Minister cannot advise the dissolution of the House. In fact, that was the reason why the Supreme Court had reinstated the House of Representatives on February 23, 2021.     

Third, there are pieces of evidence of parliamentary procedural lapse by both the ruling and opposition parties. As enshrined in Article 76, the Prime Minister has to test his/her majority on the floor of the House. Oli only did that on May 10. He skipped the process on May 20.  He was supposed to do the floor test on that day since he was reappointed as the Prime Minister on May 13 under Article 76(3). However, he just announced and informed the President that he does not have a majority in the House.

As mentioned in the Nepal Constitution, the Prime Minister has to be ‘relieved’ from the office upon losing the majority in the House. For example, Article 100(6) clearly says “if a motion of no confidence tabled under clause (4) is passed by a majority of the total number of the then members of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister shall relieve of his or her office.”5 Therefore, as per the abovementioned article, Prime Minister Oli should have resigned after failing to prove the majority in the House.

Interestingly, after Prime Minister Oli’s CPN-UML became the largest party in the House on March 7, 2021, as the NCP ceased to exist as a party, and the MC recalled its ministers from the cabinet on March 13, the opposition parties did not table the no-confidence motion against him.  

Implications of the Crisis

The public faith in the country’s constitution and political system has eroded drastically in last one year, since the ordinance related to Political Party Act was issued by the Oli Government in April 2020. The new political system introduced by the constitution has been repeatedly misused by the ruling party. This has set a wrong precedent in the Nepal polity. Public disenchantment towards the new system manifested in a series of rallies and protests. The pro-royalist organisations even began discussing the revival of the monarchical system. During October-November 2020, a series of pro-monarchy rallies were organised across the country.6  

Another new trend was division in other political parties in favour or against the constitutional action taken by the Oli Government. For example, factionalism intensified in the Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP), which was formed in April 2020 after the merger of two Terai-based parties - the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Janata Party (JP). Most importantly, some new political alliances -- CPN-UML and JSP, the NC-led alliance with the MC, the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction from the CPN-UML, and the Upendra Yadav faction from the JSP -- were formed based on political opportunism and without any ideological basis.

These intra-party and inter-party bickerings have impacted governance in the country. The government miserably failed to manage the second wave of COVID-19 as the country witnessed a massive surge in COVID-related infections and deaths, and also a downfall in economic growth. There was an increase in unemployment which forced people to engage in illegal activities like gold smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking, etc.

No Point Blaming India

Three former prime ministers of Nepal – Prachanda, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Baburam Bhattarai – have accused Prime Minister Oli of dissolving the Parliament at India’s direction. Bhattarai in his joint opinion piece published in The Hindu on May 29 stated that “…Oli is in collusion with Hindu monarchical forces in Nepal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in India” to dismantle the Nepal Constitution.7 These accusations were made despite India treating the political developments as ‘internal issues’ of the country, and even as the Chinese ambassador conducted open consultation on internal matters of Nepal with political leaders and constitutional authorities of the country.8

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement issued on May 26 clearly stated that India views the recent political developments in Nepal as “internal matters” of the country to be dealt under its “own domestic framework and democratic processes.”9 Such accusations appear all the more baseless and unfounded because of the following reasons:

First, it may be noted that Prime Minister Oli has been one of the most influential Chairman of the UML since July 2014. He has also been the most powerful prime minister in the post-constitution period. He had secured close to an absolute majority in the House of Representatives due to the merger of the MC with the CPN-UML in the post-election period. His government also had issue-based support from the SP and the JP until the end of 2019. Therefore, he did not require any external support to remain in power and function independently.

Second, though Prime Minister Oli’s CPN-UML turned into the largest party in the House after the Supreme Court verdict of March 7, 2021, it continued to enjoy a majority till May 4 as the MC did not withdraw its support to the government. However, his party had to explore the possibility of seeking support from the JSP. As a result, in the emerging new political alignment, the JSP emerged as a kingmaker in Nepal politics following the SC verdict. 

From the JSP’s point of view (especially for the Mahantha Thakur faction), the political situation provided a golden opportunity to address the remaining Madhesi issues that were not addressed by the 2015 Constitution. The Thakur faction was more seriously looking towards the redressal of Madhesi issues, unlike the Upendra Yadav faction. The Thakur faction was aware that if their demands are accepted by the largest party in the parliament, then the NC would not oppose this political accommodation because the NC is politically dependent on the Terai region. The Thakur faction also felt more comfortable dealing with the CPN-UML because previously when it tried to negotiate with the NC, it remained silent on addressing the Madhesi demands for the fear of losing hill votes. This was perhaps the reason why opposition parties, including the NC, remained silent on the citizenship ordinance, which the President issued on May 23, 2021.

Summing Up

It is clear that Prime Minister Oli has survived in power due to his strong leadership within the party and in the government, support from the MC, failure of the opposition parties to table a no-confidence motion against his government after March 2021, and finally, due to the convergence of interest between the CPN-UML and the Mahantha Thakur faction of the JSP. However, for now, all eyes are set on whether the Supreme Court would validate the President’s action.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or of the Government of India.

 June 17, 2021

Source- IDSA 

असंलग्न आन्दोलनको सान्दर्भिकता थप बढेको छ


असरफ शिखालिएभ

नेपालका लागि अजरबैजानका राजदूत

यतिवेला संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघपछिको दोस्रो ठूलो बहुपक्षीय संस्था असंलग्न आन्दोलनको अध्यक्षता अजरबैजानले गरेको छ । नेपालले सुरुदेखि नै असंलग्न आन्दोलनमा आफूलाई सहभागी गराउँदै आएको छ । दुई वर्षअघि अजरबैजानको बाकुमा आयोजित असंलग्न आन्दोलनको शिखर सम्मेलनमा प्रधानमन्त्री केपी ओली नेतृत्वको प्रतिनिधिमण्डल सहभागी थियो । परिवर्तित परिस्थितिमा असंलग्न आन्दोलनको औचित्यमाथि प्रश्न उठिरहेका वेला यसको औचित्य तथा नेपाल–अजरबैजान सम्बन्धबारे दिल्लीस्थित अजरबैजानका राजदूत असरफ शिखालिएभसँग नयाँ पत्रिकाका पर्शुराम काफ्लेले गरेको इमेल कुराकानी :

तपाईं एक वर्षअघि नेपालका लागि गैरआवासीय राजदूत नियुक्त भएर काठमाडौं आउनुभयो । नेपालप्रति तपाईंको दृष्टिकोण के–कस्तो छ र नेपालसँग दुई देशबीचको सम्बन्ध कसरी अघि बढाउन खोजिरहनुभएको छ ? 

वास्तवमा नेपालका लागि राजदूत नियुक्त हुनु मेरा लागि सम्मानको विषय हो । मैले राष्ट्रपतिसमक्ष ओहोदाको प्रमाणपत्र सन् २०१९ जुनमा बुझाएको थिएँ । म सम्झिन्छु– नेपालको सुन्दरताबाट म असाध्यै मोहित भएको थिएँ । नेपालको प्रकृति, चम्किला हिमाली पर्वतमाला अनि नेपालीको आतिथ्यताको न्यानोपनबाट म प्रभावित भएको छु । वास्तवमा अजरबैजान र नेपाल संयक्त राष्ट्रसंघ र अन्य वैश्विक संस्थाहरूमा नजिकबाट सहकार्य गर्छौँ । हामीले द्विपक्षीय व्यापार र लगानी बढाउने तथा आपसी पर्यटन प्रवद्र्धन गर्नु आवश्यक देखेको छु । अजरबैजान र नेपालमा एक–अर्काका पर्यटकको संख्या बढिरहेको सुन्दा म खुसी भएको थिएँ । म यो कुरा बडो खुसीसाथ भनिरहेको छु कि चर्चित नेपाली चलचित्र वीरविक्रम– २ का केही भाग अजरबैजानमा सुटिङ भएको थियो । वास्तवमा कोभिड– १९ को परिस्थितिपछि आर्थिक सम्बन्धमा के–कस्ता आपसी लाभका अवसर खोज्ने भन्नेमा दृष्टिकोण बनाउनु आवश्यक छ । यस सन्दर्भमा हामीले केही दृष्टिकोण तयार पारेका छौँ ।

नेपालका प्रधानमन्त्री केपी ओली पनि २०१९ अक्टोबरमा असंलग्न आन्दोलनको शिखर सम्मेलनमा सहभागी हुने क्रममा बाकु भ्रमणमा जानुभयो । सम्मेलन सफल बनाउन उहाँको सहभागितालाई हामीले उच्च मूल्यांकन गरेका छौँ । असंलग्न आन्दोलनको संस्थापक सदस्यका रूपमा नेपालको भूमिका महत्वपूर्ण छ । त्यसवेला प्रधानमन्त्री ओलीको भ्रमणमा दुई देशबीच संक्षिप्त भए पनि महत्वपूर्ण द्विपक्षीय बैठक भए । दुई देशका परराष्ट्रमन्त्रीबीच पनि छलफल भयो । यी भ्रमणको परिणाम आउने छ भन्नेमा हामी विश्वस्त छौँ ।

परिवर्तित विश्व परिस्थितिमा धेरैले असंलग्न आन्दोलनको औचित्यमाथि प्रश्न उठाइरहेका छन् । अध्यक्ष मुलुकका रूपमा तपाईंहरूले यसको सान्दर्भिकता कसरी देख्नुहुन्छ ?

परिवर्तित परिस्थितिमा संसारका धेरै विकासशील देशले बिस्तारै गतिमा प्रगति गर्दै आर्थिक वृद्धि हासिल गरिरहेका छन् र उनीहरू विश्वव्यापी रूपमा अझ महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका खेल्न इच्छुक छन् । असंलग्न आन्दोलनमा १२० मुलुक सहभागी छन् र यो संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघपछिको सबैभन्दा ठूलो राजनीतिक संस्था हो । त्यसकारण आज यसको सान्दर्भिकता अझ बढेको छ । असंलग्न आन्दोलन शान्ति, सुरक्षा, विकास, आर्थिक सहकार्य, अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय सम्बन्धहरूको लोकतान्त्रीकरणका विषयमा छलफल गर्नका लागि अहिले पनि महत्वपूर्ण र सान्दर्भिक छ भन्ने हामी ठान्दछौँ । संयुक्त सहकार्यमार्फत विकासशील देशहरूले उनीहरूका साझा महत्वका विषयमा बलियो र ठूलो आवाज बोल्न सक्ने यो फोरम हो । त्यसकारण, असंलग्न आन्दोलनको अध्यक्ष मुलुकका नाताले अजरबैजानले वाङडुङ सिद्धान्तलाई प्रवद्र्धन गर्न, असंलग्न मुलुकहरूबीचको एकता थप सुदृढ गर्न तथा विकाकशील हाम्रा सदस्य मुलुकहरूको हितका लागि आन्दोलनको प्रभावकारिता बढाउन भूमिका निर्वाह गर्ने कुरामा कुनै कमी हुन दिएको छैन । हामी निरन्तर यसमा अघि बढ्छौँ । 

नेपाल र अजरबैजानबीच द्विपक्षीय सम्बन्ध स्थापना भएयता संयुक्त परामर्श संयन्त्रजस्ता संयन्त्र बन्न सकेका छैनन् । यसका लागि किन ढिलाइ भएको हो ? अजरबैजान सरकारले यसका लागि के सोच बनाइरहेको छ ? 

अवश्य, हाम्रा दुई मुलुकबीच तपाईंले भन्नुभएजस्ता संयुक्त संयन्त्र स्थापना गर्नु आवश्यक छ । तत्कालीन परराष्ट्रमन्त्री प्रदीप ज्ञवालीको भ्रमणका वेला सन् २०१९ को अन्तिमतिर यस विषयमा छलफल पनि भएको हो । सुरुवातमा हामी परराष्ट्र मन्त्रालयबीच छलफल र संवाद स्थापना गर्न सक्छौँ जहाँ दुईपक्षीय सम्बन्धका सबै आयामबारे छलफल हुन सकोस् । यस्तो छलफलले दुई देशबीच सहकार्यलाई अर्को तहमा लैजाने गरी प्राथमिकताका विषयसँग सम्बन्धित विज्ञ समूहहरू निर्माण गर्न दिशानिर्देश गर्न सक्छ भन्ने हामीलाई विश्वास छ ।

वास्तवमा नेपाल र अजरबैजानबीच व्यापार र वाणिज्यको तहमा असाध्यै कम सहकार्य छ । यस सन्दर्भमा के गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने तपाईंलाई लागेको छ ? 

मुख्य रूपमा दुई देशबीच सूचना सञ्चार प्रविधि, ई–गभर्नेन्स, पेट्रोकेमिकल सामानहरूको व्यापार, पर्यटन, कृषि उत्पादन, मेडिकल प्लान्ट र औषधिजस्ता क्षेत्रहरूमा सहकार्यको राम्रो अवसर छ । अजरबैजान यी विषयमा नेपालसँग काम गर्न इच्छुक र तत्पर छ । यसका लागि हामीहरूबीच व्यापारिक प्रतिनिधिमण्डलहरूको भ्रमण आदान–प्रदान हुनु जरुरी छ । व्यापार मेला तथा प्रदर्शनीहरू आयोजना गर्नु जरुरी छ जसले एक–अर्को मुलुकमा निर्यात गर्ने वस्तुहरू तथा एक–अर्को मुलुकमा लगानीका परियोजनाहरूको पहिचान हुन सकोस् । यसका लागि दुई देशका निजी क्षेत्रका कम्पनी, चेम्बर अफ कमर्स एवं औद्योगिक निकायहरूबीच सहकार्यका लागि दूतावासले भविष्यमा समन्वय गर्नेछ । त्यसपछि निजी क्षेत्रले आफ्ना रुचिका विषयको पहिचान गर्ने अवसर पाउनेछ र आपसी हितमा आधारित आर्थिक सहकार्यको विस्तारमा पनि टेवा पुग्नेछ । 

अजरबैजानको मुख्य आयस्रोत पेट्रोलियम उत्पादनको राजस्व हो भनिएको छ । यस सन्दर्भमा नेपालमा लगानीको सम्भावना तपाईं देख्नुहुन्छ ? 

अजरबैजानबाट नेपालले पेट्रोकेमिकल तथा अन्य उत्पादन किन्न सक्छ । कोभिडपूर्वको अवस्थामा नेपालमा निर्माणका क्षेत्रले निकै गति लिएको थियो । कोभिड महामारीपछि जब आर्थिक गतिविधिले गति लिन्छ, त्यसवेला नेपालका विभिन्न परियोजनामा लगानीका लागि अजरबैजनी कम्पनीहरूले रुचि दिनेछन् भन्नेमा मलाई विश्वास छ । 

पेट्रोलियम पदार्थ त तपाईंहरूको विज्ञताको विषय नै भयो, जलविद्युतलगायत नवीकरणीय ऊर्जामा लगानीको सम्भावना हुन सक्ला ? 

अरू देशहरूजस्तै अजरबैजान पनि नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा क्षेत्रको विकास गर्न उत्सुक छ । हाम्रा विज्ञहरूले यस सन्दर्भमा विभिन्न प्रस्तावहरू तयार गरेका छन् र विभिन्न अध्ययनहरू पनि गरेका छन् । यो क्षेत्रलगायत ऊर्जा क्षेत्रमा सहकार्यका लागि ठूलो सम्भावना छ भन्ने म ठान्दछु । यसका लागि दूतावासका तर्फबाट हामीले गर्ने समन्वयका प्रयास जारी राख्नेछौँ ।

अजरबैजानले अर्मेनियासँगको विवादका सन्दर्भमा विशेष गरी भौगोलिक अखण्डताको प्रश्नमा नेपालसँग पनि ऐक्यबद्धताका लागि आग्रह गरेको थियो भन्ने खबर आएको थियो, यसबारे केही बताइदिनुस् न ?

अर्मेनियाको जबर्जस्त हस्तक्षेपको प्रतिरोध गर्ने क्रममा हामीले धेरै मित्रदेशबाट सदभाव पायौँ । त्यसका लागि हामी आभार व्यक्त गर्दछौँ । 

नेपालमा राजदूतावास वा अवैतनिक महावाणिज्य दूतावास खोल्ने योजना छ कि ? 

यो महत्वपूर्ण विषय हो । कोभिड– १९ को समाप्तिपछि हामी यस सम्बन्धमा गम्भीरतापूर्वक अध्ययन गर्नेछौँ । 


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