With Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress successfully proving majority in Nepal’s Parliament, the current round of political instability in the Himalayan Republic appears to be at an end. It will be recalled that Nepal has been lurching from one political uncertainty to another since December last year when now former PM KP Oli recommended dissolution of the Parliament in light of steadily losing support within the then unified Nepal Communist Party. That decision was overturned by Nepal’s Supreme Court in February this year as the move was found to be unconstitutional. Subsequently, the unified Nepal Communist Party was disbanded by the apex court in March and Oli lost majority in Parliament in May.
After which Oli once again recommended dissolution of Parliament to only be overturned by the apex court yet again. This time the court ruled that President Bidya Devi Bhandari was wrong to go for dissolution without due consideration to Deuba’s claim of support within Parliament. Hence, the court ordered Deuba’s appointment as the new PM.
Two main points emerge from this series of events. One, Nepal’s transition to democracy continues to be a work in progress with the Himalayan Republic still ironing out the incongruities in its constitutional interpretations and procedure. This isn’t surprising for a fledgling democracy. However, the learning curve shouldn’t come at the cost of government stability. Especially in the middle of a pandemic. Nepal’s Covid testing and vaccination have been much less than optimal – only 4% of its 28 million population has been fully vaccinated so far. In fact, Nepal has had four health ministers since the pandemic began. This clearly isn’t helpful.
Second, it is evident that Nepal’s political parties have also been happy playing musical chairs with government. And there is a worry that the apex court’s recent ruling reversing the dissolution of Parliament and appointing Deuba as PM could only incentivise such jockeying in future. After all, the court’s interpretation of Article 76(5) of Nepal’s Constitution allowing an individual lawmaker to stake claim to the PM’s post by garnering support from individual lawmakers irrespective of the parties they belong to can be problematic down the road. With 22 lawmakers from Oli’s CPN-UML defying the party whip and voting for Deuba in his vote of confidence – the apex court has made it clear that the party whip won’t apply in these circumstances – there is a danger that the same situation might repeat itself. Plus, the question also arises whether Nepal is truly committed to a party system. In a parliamentary system you can’t have parties and then make provisions for party lawmakers to elect a PM from another party by defying their own party whip. That’s illogical.
But again, these are issues that Nepal’s polity has to figure out for itself. The Himalayan Republic needs stability. It can’t go from one crisis to another. Let’s hope Nepali democracy matures and plays a crucial role in the progress of South Asia.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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