Nepal is a country which never had political stability. In its entire history, Nepal has hardly seen or experienced stability in political matters. In the last 70 years 7 constitutions have been promulgated and in 58 years, Nepalese people have seen 43 prime ministers so far. Twenty different governments have ruled Nepal since 2000, the highest turnover rate in all of South Asia. It has also seen many political systems — Monarchy, autocratic Rana Regime, elected government with monarchy, Panchayat system, Constitutional Monarchy, and now a federal democratic republic. These kinds of political changes, especially in a very short period of time, have badly hampered the country’s overall development and growth. Even after the promulgation of the new constitution, still there is no sign of hope for a stable and a strong Government.
The coalition of UML CPN, Communist Party of Nepal(Moist Centre) and other left parties which later became a single party — the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), came into power with a historic mandate in 2074. None of the party got a clear majority in the 2074 General Elections. However, UML and Maoist Centre merged and became the strongest party in the House holding ⅔ majority and KP Oli who had been projected as a face for PM of “Left Alliance” during the election campaign, became the most powerful Prime Minister in the history of democratic Nepal.
After Nepali congress (with 63 seats), the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal came as the third largest party in the lower house which later merged with Naya Shakti Party, led by Baburam Bhattarai and formed a political party called Samajwadi Party. Later Samajwadi Party got merged with the Rashtriya Janata Party and formed Janata Samajwadi Party which is also on verge of split now.
Here, a question arises that how such a huge political party holding such a huge mandate has now become a history and how even the mandate of 2/3rd majority failed to bring stability & certainty in Nepal.
Internal Party Dynamics
Several internal political dynamics had led to the state of turmoil within the NCP. In May 2018, when Oli and Dahal announced formation of NCP, they had reached a gentleman’s agreement to lead the government in turn, two-and-a-half years each. But according to the Nov 2019 agreement, Oli would lead the government for a full five years term and Dahal would run the Party as “Executive Chairman”.
Yet, Oli failed to demonstrate any intention to relinquish either post, increasing friction within the party. Additionally, Oli made unilateral appointments to several cabinet and government positions, further consolidating his individual authority over the newly formed NCP. He also sidelined several senior leaders of NCP including former Prime Ministers Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and former deputy prime minister Bam Dev Gautam. Amid deepening crisis in the party, Oli was losing his ground—his opponents in the ruling party were bent on forcing him to step down; they were planning to take a decision against him through party committees; and as many as 90 lawmakers had even filed a no-confidence motion. Consequently, Oli chose to dissolve the lower house(on 20 Dec 2020) and seek a fresh mandate rather than face a vote of no-confidence, ignoring the constitutional provisions, norms & values which not only created a political crisis but also a constitutional crisis in the country.
Analysts even said that Oli has not only trampled upon fundamental values of the constitution and democracy but also plunged the country into yet another vicious cycle of uncertainty and instability.
Supreme Court’s Role
In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court came to reinstate the lower house on February 23, calling Oli’s move “unconstitutional” and ordered the government to summon the House session within the next 13 days.
Surprisingly, just after few days, in a dramatic verdict by the Supreme Court on March 7, the day the meeting of the restored House was scheduled, revived the CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), invalidating the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which the two parties had formed in May 2018. That led to more political confusion in the country.
The political drama didn’t end there, Oli’s Machiavellian tricks continued and President Bhandari played complicit roles. In a notice issued at around 2am(May 22), the Office of the President said Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives as per Article 76 (7) and declared elections in two phases—on November 12 and November 19—on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers.This is the second time the House was dissolved just in five months, throwing the country into political uncertainties.
Lok Raj Baral, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University and former ambassador to India said “Oli has pushed the country into the same quagmire from which it was trying to get out, I have been saying all along that a two-thirds majority is just a technical thing and it alone cannot ensure stability unless our politicians rise above their partisan interest, improve their culture and shed their feudal mindset.”
Geopolitical factors and external actors have historically impacted Nepal’s domestic political landscape. Recently, in a bid to cement his authority over the NCP, Oli attempted to improve ties with India—lately strained due to Nepal’s inclusion of disputed territories in its new political map—resulting in recent high-level visits from both countries. India has also provided Nepal with millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines as part of its vaccine diplomacy efforts in the region. However, while India has previously interfered in Nepal’s domestic politics, it has described the current power struggle as an “internal matter” to prevent backlash from Nepali policymakers and to avoid a potential spillover of political unrest.
However, India’s traditionally dominant influence in Nepal has been challenged by China’s ascendancy in recent years. Due to fears of Tibetans potentially using Nepal’s soil to conduct anti-China activities, China considers Nepal important to its national security strategy. Beijing has traditionally maintained a non-interventionist approach to foreign policy; however, this approach is gradually changing as is evident from the Chinese ambassador to Nepal’s proactive efforts to address current crises within the NCP. Nepal’s media speculates that China is in favor of keeping the NCP intact as the ideological affinity between the NCP and the Communist Party of China could help China exert its political and economic influence over Nepal.
Although China is aware of India’s traditionally influential role in Nepal, it is also skeptical of growing U.S. interest in the region; especially considering Oli’s push for parliamentary approval of the USD $500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant assistance from the United States to finance the construction of electrical transmission lines in Nepal.In fact, the MCC is also one of the major reason for the turmoil in the party, with Oli’s loyalists including then Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali backing it, while the Dahal faction opposed it. In contrast, Dahal has opposed the MCC and has described it as part of the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Strategy to contain China. Given Nepal is a signatory to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing might prefer development projects under the BRI framework and could lobby the Nepali government to delay or reject U.S.-led projects.
After the results of the previous General Elections, there was an expectation among the people that Nepal would embark on a journey of political stability, resulting in economic growth and development. But those expectations have been trashed as the political parties are still first and foremost vying for power.
This shows how even a historic mandate of two-third majority failed in Nepal to bring stability.