Nepal’s political crisis deepens: Parliament dissolved amid power tussle; utter disregard of pandemic severity

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Kathmandu: In what can be seen as a midnight drama and deepening of political crisis, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has once again decided to dissolve the House of Representatives, two years short of its five-year term.

An emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers called on late Friday night decided to call for two-phase midterm elections on November 12 and 19. President Bidya Devi Bhandari, just like she did in the past, approved the recommendation from the Prime Minister in less than an hour.

Prior to the cabinet’s decision, President Bidya Devi Bhandari had decided to dismiss the claims made by the incumbent PM KP Oli and Sher Bahadur Deuba to form a new government as per Article 76 (5), citing a lack of basis for the claims. 

Following the development, the cabinet meeting decided to dissolve the House and call for midterm elections in line with Article 76(7) of the Constitution.

This is the second time PM Oli has dissolved the lower house in less than six months. PM Oli had dissolved the House on December 20 last year too, triggering heavy criticisms and protests from the opposition and civil society. Later, in a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court reinstated the House on February 22.

KP Oli came into power after 2017 parliamentary elections in which the left alliance won. Following the elections, the erstwhile CPN (UML) led by KP Oli and Maoist-Center led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which had a whopping 174 seats in the 275-member lower house. 

Since then, the country has been witnessing an intra-party feud, chiefly between two leaders of the ruling party – Oli and ‘Prachanda’ – until Nepal’s Supreme Court annulled their unification in March. On March 9, the Supreme Court passed a verdict to scrap the Nepal Communist Party, which took the unified communist party to the pre-merger stage.  The intra-party feud continued within the CPN-UML between PM Oli and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal even after its separation from Maoist-Center.

While political leaders are busy securing their power and position, people are at the receiving end as they are fighting the deadly second wave of Covid-19. The country has already seen as many as 6,024 deaths from Covid-19, while nearly 500,000 people have already been infected by the deadly virus. 

Across the country, hospital beds, access to tests, medicines including life-saving oxygen have become impossible to find, and the government has already issued an official statement saying “the situation is unmanageable”. 

In such circumstances, the most crucial questions raised are: Will politicians pay attention to the worsening situation in the country, or will they be entirely focused on elections agenda and populist programs? Or will they go through the same court process, no-confidence motion and dissolution of House repeatedly?