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Explained: Nepal Political Crisis and Why Parliament Was Dissolved

Amid COVID-19 pandemic & strained ties with India, here’s what made PM Oli dissolve the Parliament.

Updated
Explainers
6 min read
Nepal has plunged into another political crisis as Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the Parliament, which his opponents within the government and the Opposition leaders are calling a “unilateral and unconstitutional” move.
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In the past 30 years since 1990, no single Prime Minister of Nepal has served a full five-year term. The country has seen the governance change hands over 25 times as none of the 14 prime ministers stayed on for the entire term.

The current regime is no different, as Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the Parliament, which his opponents within the government and the Opposition leaders deemed a “unilateral and unconstitutional” move.

The move is now in the process of being challenged in the country’s Supreme Court.

While the main reason indicates a power struggle between Oli and other leaders of the ruling coalition, here’s all you need to know about what led to Nepal’s political crisis and what’s the way forward for India’s neighbour.

Explained: Nepal Political Crisis and Why Parliament Was Dissolved

  1. 1. How and When Differences Within the Ruling Coalition Grew

    The government is a coalition of two left parties of the country the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) led by Oli and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), led by former PM Pushp Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.

    As the government came to power in 2018, it was decided that the two leaders will serve as joint chairmen of the ‘ruling’ party under an electoral alliance and had agreed to a power-sharing deal under which both would hold the position of the prime minister for a period of two-and-a-half years each.

    According to The Print, the deal never got ratified within the party, as Oli avoided taking it to the General Council, which has been the primary reason for Oli’s rift with Dahal and two other prominet leaders of the coalition Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal.

    The rift began to widen further early this year as the leaders demanded for Oli’s resignation as both prime minister as well as the chairman of the party.

    Expand
  2. 2. How Tensions With India Widened the Rift

    On 13 June, Nepal’s Parliament voted on a constitutional amendment Bill in a special session to update the country’s map, that showed the regions of Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as part of its sovereign territory.

    The Nepal government’s move came after India inaugurated a road connecting India to China via Lipulek, as part of the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage route. Nepal claims that the newly-built road traverses its territory.

    As he faced internal pressure over deteriorating relations with India, Oli further received flak for his remark that a plot with the intention to overthrow him was being shaped by the leaders of his own coalition government.

    Oli had alleged that politicians in the country were being instigated by India with the intention of removing him from power.

    After his comments, leaders of the ruling party renewed calls for his resignation.

    “The prime minister's remarks that India was conspiring to remove him was neither politically correct, nor diplomatically appropriate... Not India, it is me who is demanding your resignation. You must furnish proof of such irresponsible remarks,” Dahal was quoted as saying, adding that Oli’s statement might undermine the relationship with India.

    The other factions led by Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal also voiced similar sentiments over the border dispute.

    Expand
  3. 3. How Efforts to Resolve Crisis and Save the Government Failed

    Several rounds of meetings were held between Oli and the leaders of the other factions led by Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal.

    In May, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi held separate meetings with President Bhandari, Oli and other senior leaders including Dahal and Madhav Nepal.

    While the ruling coalition was facing flak from several Opposition leaders of the country, who called China’s interventions as an ‘interference’ in the country’s internal matters, Yanqi once again held talks with the party leaders in July to reportedly formulate a truce.

    The leaders of the ruling coalition themselves held several rounds of talks, most of which remained inconclusive amid several postponements and cancellations of the party’s Standing Committee meetings.

    According to The Wire, Oli also met main Opposition Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba in a bid to seek his support to save his government in case the party split, which did not go down well with the other factions.

    Expand
  4. 4. How an Ordinance Became the Final Nail in the Coffin

    President Bidya Devi Bhandari on 15 December promulgated an ordinance as per the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, that sought to amend the Constitutional Council Act (Functions, Duties and Procedures) 2010 of Nepal.

    The Constitutional council is a six-member committee including the prime minister, the chief justice, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, National Assembly chair and the leader of the main Opposition. The Council makes constitutional appointments to the country’s constitutional bodies, judiciary and foreign missions.

    As per the provisions of Constitutional Council Act, five of the six members must be present for the meeting to convene. Since there is no deputy Speaker, absence of any of the members would mean cancellation of the meeting of the Council.

    However, the ordinance brought on 15 December and promulgated the same day by Bhandari, stated that ‘majority’ of the Council members can hold the meeting in absence of other members.

    The ordinance was brought in after the leader of Opposition Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Speaker Agni Sapkota did not attend the meeting that was called on 13 December.

    PM Oli last week was reportedly under pressure from the Opposition and the factions in the ruling coalition to withdraw the ordinance, but he went ahead and got it promulgated anyway.

    On 20 December, a day ahead of the party’s Standing Committe, Oli held a series of meetings with Dahal in the morning, Secretariat member Ram Bahadur Thapa in the afternoon and President Bhandari in the evening, as a last ditch effort to control the resistance over the ordinance.

    Expand
  5. 5. How the Dissolution Was Executed

    An emergency meeting of the Cabinet was called on Sunday morning, which was expected to be talks over the ordinance. However, in an unprecedented move, Oli decided to recommend to the President the dissolution of the federal parliament. According to The Kathmandu Post, Oli faced no Opposition to the announcement from the ministers present.

    “Today’s Cabinet meeting decided to recommend the President to dissolve the Parliament,” Barshaman Pun, a minister in Oli’s cabinet told The Kathmandu Post.

    The Office of the President gave it a go-ahead in the afternoon.

    The Standing Committee of his own party condemned the move as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

    According to The Kathmandu Post, the Office of the President said in a notice that President Bidya Devi Bhandari approved the recommendation, pursuant to Article 76 (1) and (7) and Article 85 of the constitution, of the Council of Ministers to dissolve the House of Representatives. The President also approved the Cabinet’s recommendation for holding general elections on 30 April and 10 May next year.

    At least seven ministers stepped down after the dissolution, saying it was violation of the “popular mandate” given to them in a 2017 general election, Reuters reported.

    Expand
  6. 6. How Oli Defended the Dissolution in Address to the Nation

    In his address to the nation following the dissolution, Oli defended the move and accused leaders of his own government of provocating him to take this step.

    He said that the elected government was pushed to a corner and picketed against and was not allowed to work.

    “Against the people's mandate and their will, national politics was dragged into an endless and goalless direction by creating controversy, making Parliament meaningless as the elected government could not receive its support but always faced opposition and dragged into the controversy,” Oli said, as quoted by The Kathmandu Post.

    “Though the move to dissolve the House is seen as a sudden step but the situation was created by some leaders of the Nepal Communist Party since long due to their non-cooperation with my government and their opposition,” he added.

    He further said that he did not want to indulge in unfair practices behind closed doors and reach a compromise with them.

    “Giving a chance to the people for a fresh mandate is the best democratic alternative,” The Kathmandu Post quoted him as saying.

    Expand
  7. 7. How Opponents are Preparing to Move Supreme Court and What Happens Next

    The Lower House of Nepal’s Parliament, called the ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’, has a term of five years unless dissolved earlier. There is no provision in the Constitution that allows the Prime Minister to dissolve the Parliament unilaterally.

    Oli’s opponents have now turned to the Supreme Court to challenge his dissolution of Parliament denouncing it as a "constitutional coup", Reuters reported.

    Supreme Court Spokesman Bhadrakali Pokharel told Reuters that three petitions against the dissolution were “in the process of being registered”.

    Dinesh Tripathi, who is one of the petitioners, said that according to the Constitution, the prime minister should allow the formation of an alternate government to ensure stability.

    If the court registers the petitions it could take about two weeks for a decision, Reuters quoted legal experts as saying.

    According to The Print, if the court rules Oli’s decision to be unconstitutional, he will have to resign as prime minister. If not, the interim government will continue till the next elections scheduled on 30 April and 10 May.

    Meanwhile, several protesters and activists who have taken to streets across the country while protesting against the dissolution.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

How and When Differences Within the Ruling Coalition Grew

The government is a coalition of two left parties of the country the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) led by Oli and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), led by former PM Pushp Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.

As the government came to power in 2018, it was decided that the two leaders will serve as joint chairmen of the ‘ruling’ party under an electoral alliance and had agreed to a power-sharing deal under which both would hold the position of the prime minister for a period of two-and-a-half years each.

According to The Print, the deal never got ratified within the party, as Oli avoided taking it to the General Council, which has been the primary reason for Oli’s rift with Dahal and two other prominet leaders of the coalition Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal.

The rift began to widen further early this year as the leaders demanded for Oli’s resignation as both prime minister as well as the chairman of the party.

How Tensions With India Widened the Rift

On 13 June, Nepal’s Parliament voted on a constitutional amendment Bill in a special session to update the country’s map, that showed the regions of Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as part of its sovereign territory.

The Nepal government’s move came after India inaugurated a road connecting India to China via Lipulek, as part of the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage route. Nepal claims that the newly-built road traverses its territory.

As he faced internal pressure over deteriorating relations with India, Oli further received flak for his remark that a plot with the intention to overthrow him was being shaped by the leaders of his own coalition government.

Oli had alleged that politicians in the country were being instigated by India with the intention of removing him from power.

After his comments, leaders of the ruling party renewed calls for his resignation.

“The prime minister's remarks that India was conspiring to remove him was neither politically correct, nor diplomatically appropriate... Not India, it is me who is demanding your resignation. You must furnish proof of such irresponsible remarks,” Dahal was quoted as saying, adding that Oli’s statement might undermine the relationship with India.

The other factions led by Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal also voiced similar sentiments over the border dispute.

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How Efforts to Resolve Crisis and Save the Government Failed

Several rounds of meetings were held between Oli and the leaders of the other factions led by Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal.

In May, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi held separate meetings with President Bhandari, Oli and other senior leaders including Dahal and Madhav Nepal.

While the ruling coalition was facing flak from several Opposition leaders of the country, who called China’s interventions as an ‘interference’ in the country’s internal matters, Yanqi once again held talks with the party leaders in July to reportedly formulate a truce.

The leaders of the ruling coalition themselves held several rounds of talks, most of which remained inconclusive amid several postponements and cancellations of the party’s Standing Committee meetings.

According to The Wire, Oli also met main Opposition Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba in a bid to seek his support to save his government in case the party split, which did not go down well with the other factions.

ADVERTISEMENT

How an Ordinance Became the Final Nail in the Coffin

President Bidya Devi Bhandari on 15 December promulgated an ordinance as per the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, that sought to amend the Constitutional Council Act (Functions, Duties and Procedures) 2010 of Nepal.

The Constitutional council is a six-member committee including the prime minister, the chief justice, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, National Assembly chair and the leader of the main Opposition. The Council makes constitutional appointments to the country’s constitutional bodies, judiciary and foreign missions.

As per the provisions of Constitutional Council Act, five of the six members must be present for the meeting to convene. Since there is no deputy Speaker, absence of any of the members would mean cancellation of the meeting of the Council.

However, the ordinance brought on 15 December and promulgated the same day by Bhandari, stated that ‘majority’ of the Council members can hold the meeting in absence of other members.

The ordinance was brought in after the leader of Opposition Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Speaker Agni Sapkota did not attend the meeting that was called on 13 December.

PM Oli last week was reportedly under pressure from the Opposition and the factions in the ruling coalition to withdraw the ordinance, but he went ahead and got it promulgated anyway.

On 20 December, a day ahead of the party’s Standing Committe, Oli held a series of meetings with Dahal in the morning, Secretariat member Ram Bahadur Thapa in the afternoon and President Bhandari in the evening, as a last ditch effort to control the resistance over the ordinance.

ADVERTISEMENT

How the Dissolution Was Executed

An emergency meeting of the Cabinet was called on Sunday morning, which was expected to be talks over the ordinance. However, in an unprecedented move, Oli decided to recommend to the President the dissolution of the federal parliament. According to The Kathmandu Post, Oli faced no Opposition to the announcement from the ministers present.

“Today’s Cabinet meeting decided to recommend the President to dissolve the Parliament,” Barshaman Pun, a minister in Oli’s cabinet told The Kathmandu Post.

The Office of the President gave it a go-ahead in the afternoon.

The Standing Committee of his own party condemned the move as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

According to The Kathmandu Post, the Office of the President said in a notice that President Bidya Devi Bhandari approved the recommendation, pursuant to Article 76 (1) and (7) and Article 85 of the constitution, of the Council of Ministers to dissolve the House of Representatives. The President also approved the Cabinet’s recommendation for holding general elections on 30 April and 10 May next year.

At least seven ministers stepped down after the dissolution, saying it was violation of the “popular mandate” given to them in a 2017 general election, Reuters reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Oli Defended the Dissolution in Address to the Nation

In his address to the nation following the dissolution, Oli defended the move and accused leaders of his own government of provocating him to take this step.

He said that the elected government was pushed to a corner and picketed against and was not allowed to work.

“Against the people's mandate and their will, national politics was dragged into an endless and goalless direction by creating controversy, making Parliament meaningless as the elected government could not receive its support but always faced opposition and dragged into the controversy,” Oli said, as quoted by The Kathmandu Post.

“Though the move to dissolve the House is seen as a sudden step but the situation was created by some leaders of the Nepal Communist Party since long due to their non-cooperation with my government and their opposition,” he added.

He further said that he did not want to indulge in unfair practices behind closed doors and reach a compromise with them.

“Giving a chance to the people for a fresh mandate is the best democratic alternative,” The Kathmandu Post quoted him as saying.

ADVERTISEMENT

How Opponents are Preparing to Move Supreme Court and What Happens Next

The Lower House of Nepal’s Parliament, called the ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’, has a term of five years unless dissolved earlier. There is no provision in the Constitution that allows the Prime Minister to dissolve the Parliament unilaterally.

Oli’s opponents have now turned to the Supreme Court to challenge his dissolution of Parliament denouncing it as a "constitutional coup", Reuters reported.

Supreme Court Spokesman Bhadrakali Pokharel told Reuters that three petitions against the dissolution were “in the process of being registered”.

Dinesh Tripathi, who is one of the petitioners, said that according to the Constitution, the prime minister should allow the formation of an alternate government to ensure stability.

If the court registers the petitions it could take about two weeks for a decision, Reuters quoted legal experts as saying.

According to The Print, if the court rules Oli’s decision to be unconstitutional, he will have to resign as prime minister. If not, the interim government will continue till the next elections scheduled on 30 April and 10 May.

Meanwhile, several protesters and activists who have taken to streets across the country while protesting against the dissolution.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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