Nepal Political Crisis

May 21, 2021

The long-standing political instability in Nepal took a serious turn of events as the Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, was reappointed as the 43rd Prime Minister by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, four days after losing the crucial vote of confidence in the Parliament. His reappointment comes from the Opposition’s inability to secure majority seats in the Parliament to form a new government.

What led to the crises?

KP Sharma Oli, the Chairman of the Nepal Communist Party-Unified Marxist-Leninist, had come to power for the second time in 2018 in the first-ever parliamentary polls under the new Constitution. The leader of another party, CPN (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal aligned with Oli’s party during the elections and both merged to form the Nepal Communist Party. However, a constant clash of interests between the two leaders led to the CPN (Maoist Centre) withdrawing its support to the KP Oli government, reducing it to a minority one.

The major reason cited was Oli’s refusal to vacate his seat in favor of Dahal to succeed him as the Prime Minister, despite an earlier agreement to do so at the end of the first half of his five-year tenure in September last year. Henceforth, the President under the prime minister’s direction dissolved the Parliament in December and announced new elections in 2021. However, the Supreme Court reinstated the Parliament in February and canceled the elections. What followed next was the Vote of confidence on the floor of the House.

Events that transpired

On May 10, 2021, KP Oli sought a Vote of Confidence in his bid to stay in power amid the turbulent political leadership. Of the 271 members in the House of Representatives, only 232 were present, out of which 93 members supported Oli and 124 opposed him while 28 from his own party abstained under a party whip and 15 members remained neutral.

The incumbent Government thus failed to secure the required majority and it became the first vote of confidence unsuccessfully sought by the government elected under the new Constitution. Thereafter, the President, under Article 76(2), asked the Opposition parties to stake their claim by proving the majority, which required at least 136 votes. But even the Opposition parties could not put together the coalition government by the deadline of Thursday. As a result, the President invoked Article 76(3) as per the Constitutional guidelines which require the leader of the largest party in the House to be invited to form the government. Hence, KP Sharma Oli was reappointed as the Prime Minister but this time, of a Minority Government with the strength of 121 in the House. As per rules, he is required to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of his appointment to prove his majority and form the government.

Way forward

Since Oli’s party has 121 seats in the House, 15 short of the majority, he is in the driver’s seat. But with allegiances shifting every passing day, he wouldn’t be getting too comfortable in his position. If the parties fail to form a new government in line with Article 76(5) or the Prime Minister elected under this provision fails to secure the vote of confidence again, the sitting Prime Minister can recommend the President to dissolve the Parliament and announce the date of general elections within the next six months. This seems to be the last thing Nepal would want giving the dire state of the pandemic the country is currently in. Hence it remains to be seen how the leadership will finally unfold amid the current political and health crises facing Nepal.

This article has been written by Khanak Sharma for the Paradigm

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