Nepal: More on the Constitutional Coup by Oli
This may be read along with my earlier paper on Nepal that discussed the dissolution of the Parliament in Nepal by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. More details have come to light since then, though there is some confusion on the sequence of events.
What is clear however is that Oli in connivance with President Bidya Devi Bhandari in one fell swoop pushed Nepal into another period of instability and political crisis. Bhandari by rubber stamping the recommendation instantly has not brought any glory to the high office of the President.
It is now known that the Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi called on the President two days after the dissolution. The meeting lasted an hour. This gives the impression that the Chinese were fully aware of the imminent fall of the Government but at the same time tried to avoid a split in the Party. However it is not going to be easy as we discuss the developments since the coup.
Just as Oli’s Cabinet had met and decided to recommend to the President to dissolve the Parliament, 90 members of the Lower House had registered a no confidence motion against PM Oli and proposing P.K.Dahal the head of the rival faction as the next Prime Minister. This is required as per the new Constitution. According to the 2015 Constitution, one fourth of the total number in the Parliament may in writing, move a no confidence motion against the Prime Minister.
When Oli gave his resignation and also recommended the dissolution of the Parliament, the President, Mrs Bhandari could have accepted the resignation but deferred the dissolution of the House till she looked into the possibility of someone else taking on the post of the Prime Minster. This she did not do and perhaps this is what the Chinese perhaps expected her to do!
Some observers refer the present development as similar to what Koirala did in 1994 when he not only resigned but recommended the dissolution of the House which, the then President accepted. The matter went to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that since there was no possibility of the formation of another Government there was no alternative but to seek a fresh mandate of the people and thus the dissolution was upheld.
This is however being not the case in the present instance as there was a clear possibility of another viable Government being formed under Dahal, the Co. Chairman of the Ruling Party. This was not done and President’s action was therefore suspect as she never tried to find an alterative. Over 13 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court and the case if being taken up on Friday the 25 by a full Bench. The matter now is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.
Soon after the announcement of the Dissolution of the House, there were demonstrations all over the country. Oli called for a meeting with all the Security Chiefs to discuss the security arrangements across the country. The opposition parties also met to discuss the devlopments.
Oli has now justified the recommendation of the dissolution of the Parliament on the grounds that the drastic step was taken because some leaders were preparing a no confidence motion against him. Separately he had also said that the move was to prevent impeachment proceedings of the President herself. Some say that Oli had conveyed this to the President and the latter had therefore no alternative but to accept the resignation of the Prime Minister and dissolve the assembly for fresh elections next year to avoid impeachment as well as Dahal taking over as the next Prime Minister.
The Nepal Communist Party is already split and only a formal announcement is necessary now to accept the ground reality. Soon after the dissolution of the Assembly the rival faction had their own separate Central Committee meetings. The Dahal faction along that of Madhav Nepal met and elected Madhav Nepal as the Co. Chairman of the Party. Oli’s faction not to be outdone had a separate meeting and Pradeep Gyawali the former Foreign Minister has ben elected as the Spokesman of the Party.
Dahal has claimed that two thirds of all the members of the party are with him. This is being disputed by Oli. The split will go way down to the grass roots level and there are reports of one or other faction occupying the Party office and denying entry to the other faction. More disturbances are expected.
The split at the Centre has gone down to the Provincial levels too.. Six of the seven Provincial Governments are headed by the Ruling Party. The split will affect the Provincial Governments also as each faction will claim as the legitimate successor to the previous regime. More problems are expected.
It looks that the efforts of the Chinese Ambassador to avoid the split in the party while sacrificing Oli has not borne fruit so far. They may get yet another favourite regime headed by Dahal, but the split in the Party is a reality now.
It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will view the situation. It is unfortunate but true that the fate of the country is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.