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Political arithmetic amid surging Coronavirus numbers

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Nepal’s Parliament dissolved for the second time in five months, Opposition Files Writ! 

Coronavirus numbers looking scary, 7000 new cases daily

Dr. Saurav Pantha

In a midnight drama, Nepal President dissolves House and calls polls for November 12 and 19

Photo credit: internet

Nepal yet again plummeted into the political crisis amid the surging coronavirus cases following the parliament dissolution late on Friday, 21st May, by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari. The president’s office around 2 A.M announced mid-term elections, post-dissolution, for November 12 and 19 after Prime Minister K.P Sharma Oli’s and opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba’s claim to form the new government, was declared insufficient.

This is the second dissolution of the Nepalese Parliament in five months. Last December K.P Oli had dissolved the parliament for the first time but the Supreme Court overturned the decision on February 23 claiming the dissolution move as unconstitutional and irrelevant.

Oli lost his vote of confidence in the house on Monday, May 10th after he failed to acquire 136 trust votes in 271 House of Representatives. Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) with 61 votes and 49 votes respectively backed by 15 votes from Upendra Yadav led faction of Janata Samajbadi Party, Nepal(JSP-N) voted against the prime minister, while Madhav Kumar Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction of CPN-UMN and Mahantha Thakur faction of  JSP-N abstained.

On Thursday, three days after he lost the vote of confidence in the house, Oli was reappointed as the prime minister, under Article 76(3), as the leader of the largest political party of the Parliament after Congress-led alliance failed to claim the majority seats required to replace the existing government, within the 3 days allotted time frame by the president pursuant to Article 76(2). 

The prime minister was required to acquire the vote of confidence within 30 days of his reappointment but on Thursday, May 20th, reportedly expressed his unwillingness to undergo another floor test to prove the majority in the house. He, instead, prodded the president in provoking Article 76(5) without resigning, which was deemed unconstitutional by the oppositions and constitutional experts. Following this, the president urged the political leaders to claim the stake for forming the new coalition government. 

The political crisis deepened on Friday when embattled P.M K.P Oli and opposition coalition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, both claimed stakes for the formation of a majority government. Oli claimed to have signatures of 153 lawmakers including 121 from CPN-UML and 32 from JSP-N, in contradiction of Sher Bahadur Deuba’s claim of 149 signatures from congress(61), CPN (Maoist Centre)(48), Upendra Yadav faction of JSP-N(12) and Madhav-Jhalanath faction of CPN-UML(27). The series of political disasters continued, and on the wee hours of Saturday, under the recommendation from Cabinet meeting, under Article 76(7), the president dissolved the house for the second time in five months swaying the future into uncertainties.

Unsatisfied with the decision of the Parliament dissolution, on Saturday, the opposition alliance decided to take legal measures claiming the president’s move as unconstitutional, autocratic, repressive, and undemocratic. The alliance filed a joint petition against this ‘unconstitutional’ move at the Supreme Court with the demands including the restoration of dissolved house and appointment of alliance leader and Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister. 

Members of the Nepali Army, wearing PPE, carry the body of a coronavirus victim at a crematorium in Kathmandu [File: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters]

While the political parties are entangled in their arithmetic, the coronavirus numbers are looking very scary with hospitals facing shortages of beds, oxygen cylinders, and ventilators. The political mess amid the ravaging pandemic has raised concerns among the health professionals and general populace. Nepal has 116K active cases with nearly 7K deaths among 542K active cases as of Thursday, May 27th. The national vaccine programs are at slow progress and with the death tolls rising every day, the situation appears ‘apocalyptic, with mass death-rituals being performed.

Doctors warned it may take a while for the pandemic to subside and it seems extremely unreasonable to push the country into political mess and elections. They added, the current political sequences have delayed the country’s response to the pandemic and the country may soon emulate the disastrous situation India is facing. 

The response to the pandemic has been invariably poor so far and the current situation portrays the representatives’ delinquency of the duty. The longer it takes, for the Supreme Court, to pass the verdict of the dissolution; the pandemic crisis will continue to impact the national economy and normal life of the general populace. 

In these difficult times, the citizens hope for stability in national politics and the restoration of the normal pre-pandemic daily life. It is high time to utilize the national economy on vaccines for the safety of the people rather than in mid-term elections. The nation cannot combat political and pandemic crises at once so we need to fight this together with the spirit of cooperation.

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