How long will K P Oli remain Prime Minister after May 10?

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: In what has been seen as a sudden and unexpected move, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on May 2 decided to take a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives that he himself had dissolved on December 20, 2020, which the Supreme Court had reinstated on February 23. The meeting of the House has been called for May 10.

Prime Minister is not only testing himself at Parliament but he is also giving a test to his political opponents, who have been crying foul against him even demanding his resignation, since December 20, 2020. He has challenged his opponents to remove him from power several times before.

Why exactly the PM took this move will probably unfold in the days to come. Perhaps he has realized that he needs to present himself as a leader agreeable to parliamentary norms, or he wants to establish some sense of accountability.  His address to the nation on May 3 was centered on Covid-19 control, where he spent most of his time asking people to follow Covid-19 protocols, trying to reassure that every Nepali infected with Covid will get treatment, something he had never done before.

May 10, perhaps May 11, or second week of May, is going to be a testing time for the PM as well as national politics.

Likely scenarios

Confidence vote might not take place on May 10 itself, but when the House of Representatives gets the business to decide whether PM Oli has its trust his test will begin.

First, to prove that Oli does not have the trust of the House, his opponents have to come united together. UML commands 121 seats, thus if leaders close to Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato faction of Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN), which has stood in defense of the PM recently, supports Oli, he will have 135 votes in his favor.  In that case, he will need only one more vote, which is possible to be obtained from fringe parties or independents (which have four seats). This plan will work only if Oli will extend the olive branch of rapprochement toward Madhav Nepal who commands support of around 35 MPs.  It should be noted that the Marriot Hotel meeting resulted in fiasco because Oli was stubborn. If he was conciliatory, the two leaders would have patched up. When UML stands united whole, Oli’s position is secured.

Second, PM Oli will lose the support of the House if Nepali Congress, JSPN and Maoist Center stand together. If JSPN stands divided, Nepali Congress and Maoist Center alone cannot do anything. Oli will remain in power.

For the first time, the PM has allowed Parliament to become a judge.

Third, supposing that these three parties stand against Oli, Oli then will have to resign, in which case, he will be a caretaker PM. Then Congress, JSPN and Maoist Center have to cobble up a coalition to form a new government. If that option fails, then the largest party in parliament will form the government, in which case it will still be UML led by Oli, even if Madhav Nepal faction leaders cross the floor. What then?

 “It all rests on the JSPN and Madhav Nepal factor. Finally, the situation might arise when a new PM cannot be appointed from the House, and the PM will finally dissolve it and declare early elections,” Semanta Dahal, lawyer and researcher, told Nepal Live Today.  “The Supreme Court verdict on House dissolution case has mentioned that after all options to appoint the new PM are exhausted, the PM can dissolve the House,” he said.

“It’s a matter of speculation but eventually the course might move toward early election. In early elections, the PM will find an opportunity to get his position vindicated,” said Sujit Mainali, columnist and writer.

“Election can be the most favorable situation for Nepali Congress as well,” he said. “PM’s priority for early elections may be judged against the fact that since reinstatement, he has not gone to the House for a single time,” he said.

In a parliamentary system, when the Prime Minister seeks to establish that he is trusted by the House, he does that with two objectives, to prove that he has been right all along and his opponents were wrong all along. Such a situation also presents the opponents the opportunity to prove that they had been right all along and the PM was wrong.

For the first time, the PM has allowed Parliament to become a judge.