Why is PM Oli seeking vote of confidence?

Narayan Manandhar

  • Read Time 3 min.

On recommendation of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, President Bidya Devi Bhandari has called a parliament session on May 10. The objective is to seek vote of confidence for the PM. The abrupt and unexpected decision by the PM to face vote of confidence has surprised many. There are a couple of reasons behind this.

First, ever since the Supreme Court overturned PM’s decision to dissolve parliament, there has been a political imbroglio in the country—with the PM refusing to bog down an inch and the opposition insistently calling for his resignation. The Prime Minster has also been challenging the opposition and his arch rival—the Maoist Centre—to topple his government through no-trust motion or by withdrawing latter’s support. There is also a considerable cooling of relationship between the Executive and the Legislative. Earlier he abruptly prorogued the parliament session without even consulting the Speaker. Many assumed this as a move to thwart possible no-trust motion by the opposition.

Second, given the current situation where no single party commands a simple majority, it is difficult to understand why the PM is gambling or taking a big risk. Could there be anything sinister design in making?(See the table for voting strength of the political parties).

Third, his decision to seek a vote of confidence in the parliament has come at a time when Machiavelli like political manoeuvrings are taking place at the provincial level. The public witnessed blatant display of political thuggeryin Karnali, Gandaki and Lumbini provinces. Who knows he may be hatching a similar plotat the federal level?

Fourth, the decision has come at a time when the country is in lockdown, facing an acute problem of fighting global pandemicCOVID 19. Not only the virus infections are on the steep rise, there are now shortages of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and anti-COVID vaccines.  

By calling the vote of confidence session ahead of budget session, K P Oli could be testing the power and strength of his enemies within CPN-UML.

The PM’s call to face vote of confidence has even surprised legal pundits. Here is the summary of lawyers’ views, reported in the online news portal Pahilopost: (1) This is just a caretaker government; it has no right to seek vote of confidence, it is outright illegal and unconstitutional; the vote should have been taken within 30 days after the Court’s ruling, the decision contains no bona fide intentions; he should have resigned rather than facing vote of confidence. (2) It is the prerogative of the PM to seek vote of confidence anytime in parliament, there is nothing wrong with it but the PM holds no majority in parliament, therefore, he is bound to fail. (3) This is a smart move by the PM. If he is able to garner vote of confidence in parliament, he will continue to rule, if not, he will dissolve the House and call for early elections; we are back to square one situation.

What could be the PM’s intention? Here are three possible responses. First, he could be looking for exit option, safe landing and face saving device:Let us not be sceptical. After being constantly harassed and bogged down by the opposition, given the current political and pandemic situation, the PM may be looking for a safe landing or a kind of face saving device. Given his fragile health condition, who knows he might be calling for a day. But given his background, no one is going to buy this hypothesis. Remember his saying “smash the chair rather than handing it over to the opponents.”

Second, as many have pointed out, this could be his shrewd move to justify his earlier decision to dissolve parliament. Both situations of either having or not having the vote of confidence are in his favour. If he is able to garner vote of confidence then he will rule the country for remaining tenure of parliament. In case he fails, he retains every right to call next elections, as the parliament cannot appoint another prime minister.

Third, this could be a strategy to tame Madhav Nepal Nepal Faction. His decision to call parliament session for facing vote of confidence motion ahead of parliamentary budget session could be carefully designed ploy to test and tame Madhav Nepal faction within CPN-UML. Due to conflict within JanataSamajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN), the opposition has not been able to file vote of no-trust motion in parliament. Who knows the opposition may be looking for an opportune moment to foil the upcoming budget session where MPs loyal to MK Nepal will cross the floor and bring the government to the knees. By calling for the vote of confidence session, ahead of budget session, PM Oli could be testing the power and strength of his enemies within CPN-UML.

Voting Strengths of the Political Parties (Required threshold seats >134)

SNPolitical partiesNumber of seatsRemarks
1CPN UML121Possibility of floor crossing by 27-35 MPs loyal toMadhav Nepal
2Nepali Congress61Excluding 2 suspension
3Maoist Centre49Excluding 4 suspensions
4JSP3317 MPs with Yadav and Bhattarai faction supporting NC and Maoist coalition and 16 with Thakur and Mahato faction supporting PM Oli.