Nepal’s PM wins trust vote in the lower house ensuring full term of the parliament

Nishan Khatiwada

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Kathmandu: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Sunday won the vote of confidence in the House of Representatives, securing his government’s legitimacy for the remaining term of the parliament.  

Announcing the result of the voting on the motion tabled by the Prime Minister, Speaker Agni Sapkota announced that 165 votes were cast in favor of the motion and 83 against the motion. One Member of Parliament (MP) remained neutral in the process. A total of 249 lawmakers were present during the floor test. 

In a dramatic last-minute twist, the Mahantha Thakur faction of Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN), which was once a core supporter of Oli government, also decided to vote in Deuba’s favor, which, observers say, is an example of how political opportunism is growing among the political elites. 

To ensure the legitimacy of his government, Deuba required 136 votes out of the 270 members eligible to cast a vote at the lower house, which was originally composed of 275 members. Deuba’s party, Nepali Congress, has 61 seats in the lower house. He got votes from Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), some leaders from both factions of CPN (UML), Janata Samajbadi Party, Rastriya Janamorcha and an independent MP. 

Interestingly, leaders who were close to KP Oli including Prem Ale, Minister for Forest and Environment in Oli government, Krishna Kumar Shrestha (Kisaan), Dhana Bahadur Budha and Gopal Bam also cast their votes in favor of Deuba. 

On the other hand, some of the lawmakers from Madhav Nepal faction including Surendra Pandey, Ghanashyam Bhusal, Gokarna Bista, Yogesh Bhattarai, Yagya Raj Sunuwar, Jhapat Rawal, Som Bahadur Pandey, Raj Bahadur Buda left the Parliament building before the voting process started. Initially, they were supposed to cast their vote in favor of Deuba.

Earlier, a total of 149 members of the House of Representatives had supported Deuba, including 26 from the Madhav Nepal faction of the UML, when he claimed the stake of PM before then prime minister KP Oli unconstitutionally dissolved the house. 

Later, in what appeared to be a rare political development, as many as 23 members from the faction also appeared in the court claiming that the majority was with Deuba and the president failed to recognize it while approving the house dissolution decision by the government. Not all MPs who had supported Deuba to claim the stake voted in his favor during the floor test.

Prime Minister Deuba secured 165 votes in the 275-member lower house of Parliament. 

On July 12, the Supreme Court reinstated the House for the second time, declaring the move of KP Oli to dissolve the parliament on May 22 as unconstitutional. The Court had issued a mandamus order to appoint Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister and also had ordered a parliament meeting by 5 pm on July 18. As per the order, President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, called the meeting for Sunday.

Article 76 (4) of the Constitution of Nepal has the provision that the PM appointed as per Article 76 (5) must take a vote of confidence within 30 days of the appointment. 

The House of Representatives has completed more than three-and-a-half years of its five-year tenure. The Deuba-led government will now have nearly one and half years of the term and will hold the next elections.

Nepal had held two-phased national and state-level legislative elections on November 26 and December 7, 2017, the first since the promulgation of the new constitution on September 20, 2015. 

In the elections, the Left Alliance— comprising then CPN (UML) and Maoist Center—had secured a sweeping majority on the agenda of stability and prosperity. Following the results, KP Oli became the prime minister on 15 February 2018. Later, on 17 May 2018, two parties of the alliance CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Centre) formally merged and became Nepal Communist Party (NCP)—the largest communist force the country had ever seen.

Nepal’s politics, however, could not see stability as the intra-party feud and rift became the norm in the ruling NCP. 

Intra-party feud continued to the extent where KP Oli dissolved the parliament for the first time on December 20, 2020, citing non-cooperation from the leaders of his own party.

In the meantime, Nepal’s Supreme Court on March 7, 2021, invalidated the merger of two parties to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), citing that ‘Nepal Communist Party’ was already registered back in 2013. The decision reverted the NCP back to the pre-merger phase—with revival of UML and Maoist Center as separate political parties.

Intra-party feud continued and the opposition alliance started garnering strength to oust Oli from power. On the other hand, Oli (mis)used Article 76 of the Constitution to remain in the prime ministerial post. When claims put forward by Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Oli for prime minister as per Article 76 (5) of the Constitution were both dismissed by the President, the Oli-led cabinet recommended House dissolution, which the President approved. The lower house was dissolved for the second time on May 22. The case later reached the Supreme Court which ultimately declared Oli’s move as unconstitutional.

KP Oli had lost the vote of confidence in the Parliament but he continued to misinterpret and misuse the Constitution. Such activities further weakened KP Oli’s grip in mainstream politics and finally, he was ousted from power following the Court’s mandamus order on July 12.