Tuesday 20th February 2024

Midnight Drama of the President

Published on : 22 May, 2021 3:22 am

The same thing Dr. Baburam Bhattarai predicted on social media on Friday afternoon finally happened. He tweeted: “There is no room for manipulating the proposal made by 149 lawmakers to appoint the leader of the main opposition party as PM. If the Oli led cunning group make a mischievous attempt, the general public and the conscious citizens should take appropriate precautions.”

But the same happened as Dr. Bhatterai predicted.

Nepalese Politics is in a more complicated situation  after President Bidyadevi Bhandari on Friday midnight ruled that the basis submitted by both UML chairperson KP Sharma Oli and Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba for premiership was not sufficient as per Article 76 (5) of the constitution.

The House of Representatives has been dissolved.

Following the President’s decision, the cabinet meeting held at midnight has recommended  the President to dissolve the House of Representatives and hold fresh elections of  the House of Representatives on Kartik 26 (November 12) and Mangsir 03 (November 19). From a  two-thirds majority PM  to minority , Oli will be the prime minister for the electoral government.

What Oli wanted happened

As soon as Prime Minister Oli on 6th Jestha decided to go into the process of forming a new government avoiding the provision of taking vote of confidence, President Bhandari called for the formation of a new government on the same night in accordance with Article 76, Clause 5 of the Constitution.

It was not difficult to understand that the way was paved for the formation of a new government as discussed between the President and the Prime Minister. But the decision drew criticism to both the PM & the President .  

Critics had speculated that the 24 hour deadline given by the president for the formation of new government was devious . They have quoted that the president’s call was intended to dissolve parliament and undermine the constitution.

The remarks came as the president’s call for a new government even before the prime minister took a vote of confidence came as a shock to everyone. The constitution does not provide for the formation of another government unless the prime minister resigns or fails to take a vote of confidence. For this reason, the government and some experts in the constitution called the president’s move unconstitutional.

After failing to get a vote of confidence from the parliament on Baishak 27 (May 10) , Oli was appointed as the minority prime minister in accordance with Article 76 (3) of the constitution. The constitution states that a vote of confidence must be taken from the parliament again within a month.

Prime Minister Oli instead facing  the vote of confidence in the parliament  recommended the formation of a new government to the President . Many saw this as an attempt by the prime minister to dissolve parliament.

Number game throughout the day

The president and prime minister were being criticized. On the one hand, the Congress, UCPN (M), UML’s Madhav Nepal faction and Jaspa’s Upendra Yadav faction were saying that the President’s call was unconstitutional and that the President should be impeached. On the other hand, they were also active throughout the day to hold talks with each other to form a government in accordance with Article 76, Clause 5 and then collect signatures.

Claiming that they have the signatures of 149 lawmakers, including lawmakers of Nepali Congress, UCPN (Maoist) center, UML’s Madhav Nepal led faction and Jaspa’s Upendra Yadav led faction, they went to Sheetal Niwas to inform the President. With 61 Congress, 49 UCPN (Maoist) Center, 12 Upendra faction of Jaspa and 27 Madhav Nepal faction of UML, the alliance proposed Deuba with 149 votes as the PM.

But in the meantime, another dramatic event occurred. At the same time when the opposition coalition reached Shital Niwas, so did PM Oli. He also filed his claim stating that he had the signatures of 153 parliamentarians.

PM Oli claimed that 121 MPs from the UML, including the Madhav Nepal faction, and all 32 JSP MPs were in his favor, bringing the number to 153 while the UML’s Madhav faction and Jaspa’s Upendra faction seemed to have an opposition alliance. Both leaders continued to make this public. Both of these leaders were also present when Deuba reached Shital Niwas.

After both sides presented their respective claims, the President asked for time to study both claims and to discuss the same with the constitutionalists.

The president looked confused as to recognize which of these two claims?

Will Oli continue as prime minister or will Deuba become the new prime minister from the opposition alliance? Curiosity remained for quite some time.

Various speculations were made whether the signature of UML’s Madhav faction and Jaspa’s Upendra faction acceptable for the President or not?

Article 76, Clause 5 of the Constitution provides that if the Prime Minister appointed in accordance with Clause 3 fails to get a vote of confidence, the President shall appoint such member as the Prime Minister who presents a basis for a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives.

The question arises, was it constitutional in itself for PM Oli to make a claim for the government under Article 76 (5) even after failing to get a vote of confidence under Article 76 (3)?

Another thing is that since the members of the House of Representatives are left free to make personal decisions in Article 5, the signatures of MPs from both Madhav and Upendra parties should have been acceptable to the President.

Question on the President’s intentions

Despite strong claim of the opposition coalition, the president was reluctant to make a decision.

Meanwhile suspicion was floating as whether the president chose the way again to make Oli the PM?

And yet, the same happened… Oli had desired to dissolve parliament and go to the polls, and President Bhandari has fulfilled that desire.

But this move of the President has taken Nepalese politics to a more complex turn. This will only increase the polarization between the political parties. What happens if the opposition coalition boycotts election led by Prime Minister Oli electoral government?

The President’s decision at midnight today has raised such questions.

*This article is the translation of Santosh Acharya’s original article (https://www.lokpath.com/story/405829) in Nepali language published in lokpath.com)

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