4 MIN READ
It was back to politics as usual in Nepal, as the newly reinstated House of Representatives held its first meeting on Sunday, March 7.
President Bidya Bhandari had called the meeting for 4pm but the House only convened an hour later at 5.10pm. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had arrived at Parliament at 4pm but left before the meeting sat. Bhim Rawal, one of Oli’s chief political opponents, had threatened to boycott the Sunday meeting if the day’s agenda included discussions on bills tabled by the Oli government. When Speaker Agni Sapkota went ahead with the set agenda, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal faction boycotted the meeting.
The House was then adjourned for 10 minutes while the Nepali Congress, supported by the Janata Samajbadi party, obstructed Parliament demanding that a controversial ordinance regarding the Constitutional Council, issued by Oli, be repealed.
The meeting ended with little of substance happening, but the days ahead look increasingly confrontational, especially given the Supreme Court’s Sunday verdict, which awarded the Nepal Communist Party name to one Rishi Kattel, and not the Oli or Dahal-Nepal factions. Both the Oli and Dahal-Nepal factions had been vying for the name in order to assert their continued legitimacy in Parliament. The Supreme Court verdict effectively undoes the unification of the UML and the Maoists, automatically splitting the ruling Nepal Communist Party, which no longer exists as a political party. The only Nepal Communist Party now belongs to Kattel, a little-known communist leader.
Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoists had unified in 2018 after an electoral alliance saw them both reap great electoral dividends. Riding high on their victory, Oli and Dahal had turned their electoral alliance into a party merger, resulting in the birth of the Nepal Communist Party.
Even then, in 2018, when Oli and Dahal had attempted to register the party name, the Election Commission had initially refused to comply, stating that a party called Nepal Communist Party already existed. The commission had then agreed to register Oli and Dahal’s new party as ‘Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’. Kattel had challenged the registration at the Supreme Court under Clause 6(e) of the Political Parties Act 2017 which states that a new political party cannot be registered if its “name and symbol resemble the name and symbol of a party already registered” with the Election Commission.
This particular decision, however, could benefit the embattled prime minister. Under the unified Nepal Communist Party, Oli was looking at a motion of no confidence in Parliament. The ruling party had already split for all intents and purposes, with party leaders and parliamentarians allied behind Oli or Dahal-Nepal. But with the reinstatement of the UML, Nepal, a veteran UML leader, will now have to choose between his former party and his new allies. Many believe that former UML leaders who had allied with Dahal could switch to supporting Oli, now that he is the leader of the UML and not the Nepal Communist Party.
The Dahal-Nepal faction requires a simple majority of 138 Members of Parliament to pass a motion of no confidence. The Dahal-Nepal faction has about 90 Members of Parliament on its side while Oli has about 80 lawmakers. Neither has enough members to pass a motion of no confidence or to resist it without the support of the Nepali Congress’ 63 members.
The UML has 120 members while the Maoists have 53 members so if most parliamentarians go back to their former parties, Oli will come out on top. The enforced party split also puts Nepal, a veteran UML leader, in a fix as he will have to abandon his former party if he is to continue to side with Dahal.
Much, however, remains to be seen. The days to come are likely to see Oli scrambling to bring more UML leaders to his side while Dahal and Nepal will try to keep their alliance intact while simultaneously wooing the Nepali Congress. Oli has already been rebuked once by the Supreme Court’s February 23 decision, which deemed his House dissolution unconstitutional, and he is certain to use the coming days to try to carve out a position of advantage.
Sunday’s Parliament meeting, combined with the Supreme Court’s decision, marks the resumption of overt fractional factional politics with each party vying for the upper hand.
The Record We are an independent digital publication based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Our stories examine politics, the economy, society, and culture. We look into events both current and past, offering depth, analysis, and perspective. Explore our features, explainers, long reads, multimedia stories, and podcasts. There’s something here for everyone.
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