With Nepal-Khanal faction of CPN-UML abstaining from voting on confidence motion on May 10, the voting outcome was a foregone conclusion. Out of 232 total votes, 93 were in favor, 124 against and 15 neutral. Prime Minister K P Oli lost the confidence of the parliamentarians. Interestingly, he did not resign; he did not have to. This is because Nepal’s constitution is amoral in character—bereft of moral or ethical values and principles. It is purely a legal document where clauses and sub-clauses with semicolons, commas, and full stops take precedence over moral or ethical values.
Earlier, even when the Supreme Court reinstated the dissolved parliament citing it to be unconstitutional move, neither the PM resigned nor he felt a need to do so. Instead he was glued to the chair because he had added “responsibility to implement court ruling” and, moreover, there are no constitutional provisions to resign on moral grounds. Instead, on May 10, he shamelessly stood in the same parliament—which he had dissolved—pleading the members for their votes.
Why the show?
If 28 MPs from Nepal-Khanal faction had not abstained from voting, Oli would have secured 121 votes and with additional 15 neutral votes from Thakur-Mahato camp of JSPN, the table would have turned in his favor. What is so difficult to understand is why PM Oli chose to go for voting when the outcome was so obvious? Was there some hidden agenda? Was he expecting to punish his enemies by exposing them in public? By calling special session, ahead of regular session on budget and annual programs, was he testing the votes of the opponents? With the opponents failing to come up with no-trust motion, was he heading to form a minority government under Article 76(3)? Or was he losing to win?
During the voting session, Pushpa Kamal Dahal disclosed his hidden agenda—the reason behind non-withdrawal of their support to PM Oli. It was a deliberate move to pre-empt the PM switching from a coalition government under Article 76(2) to a minority government under Article 76 (3) and then on to a government by a charismatic leader under Article 76 (5) and finally, achieving his end-goal of dissolving parliament and calling for an early election under Article 76 (7).
With PM Oli’s opposition failing to garner 136 votes, clearly, the Maoists failed on their strategy. Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba was wishy-washy from the very start. He got nothing to lose. His end-goal to have early elections matches with that of PM Oli. During three days of hectic political parleys, he was literally, holed into his residence at Buddanilkantha. Sounds like all roads lead to his residence.
Paradox of opposition
It is one thing to have all leaders visiting to see him but a different job to cobble together mutually bickering JSP members and seeking support from ever wavering Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Having defeated PM Oli in confidence voting, Deuba still had to run a mile before claiming for the trophy. With 124 votes in his favor, he was still short of 12 votes. Either he had to woo 15 votes from Thakur-Mahato faction or seek direct/indirect support from Nepal-Khanal faction. The job was not simple and easy. There was a vertical split inside JSPN. When on Thursday Thakur barricaded himself in a resort with his MPs, literally, doors to negotiation were closed.
Meanwhile, Nepal-Khanal faction was equally wishy-washy over their mass resignation strategy. In an eleventh hour one-on-one negotiation with PM Oli, Nepal pulled out his mass resignation strategy, making it impossible for Deuba-Dahal camp to claim for a next coalition government.
K P Oli is holding onto power, cashing on opponents’ divisiveness, playing on constitutional ambiguities and absurdities with the blessings from a puppet president, making joke out of the system.
It is sheer paradox to know that the opposite of “vote of confidence” is not “vote of no-confidence” in our constitution. The majority of the parliamentarians had spoken that they don’t trust PM Oli but they still remain to say “we distrust you”. With PM Oli re-appointed to head a minority government under Article 76(3), now there is a debate whether opponents can file no-trust motion against him. Is this a new government or the continuation of an old one? The Constitution prohibits filing no-trust motion for two years from the formation of the government.
Lust for power
PM Oli did not resign when the court reinstated the dissolved parliament, he did not resign when his proposal for confidence got defeated. He is simply not resigning because the Constitution is silent on this. His government has been effectively reduced from a much boasted “two-thirds majority” to a “one-third minority”, he is still clinging onto power as if he is an invincible character.
As PM Oli holds onto power, cashing on opponents’ divisiveness; playing on constitutional ambiguities and absurdities with the blessings from a puppet president, he is making joke out of the system. At a time when the country is strangulated by the triangulation of coronavirus, political virus and corruption virus, he is playing the flute of his own. In one moment, he gives his interview to the CNN saying the government is in total control of coronavirus, next moment, he writes in The Guardian, appealing for international help. He erroneously believes to have impressed his audience when they laugh at his speech. This charlatan and demagogue need to be stopped for one and only reason: With the reinstatement of the parliament that he dissolved earlier, he has turned into a wounded tiger—a far more dangerous than a normal one.