Ordinance to amend Political Parties Act introduces a fresh turmoil in Nepal’s political spectrum

On Tuesday, the Deuba government forwarded a controversial ordinance to the President which, observers say, is aimed at splitting the largest party of Nepal - CPN (UML). But it will also affect other parties, including Nepali Congress itself.

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: A fresh crisis is brewing in Nepal’s politics and there is no sign of an early resolution.

On 17 August, Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba introduced a controversial ordinance to amend the Political Parties Act-2017. The move came after the house was prorogued on Monday.

In April, when then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli introduced an ordinance to amend the Political Parties Act, the Nepali Congress–main opposition at that time–had heavily criticised the move.

Interestingly, the ruling Nepali Congress, the same party that strongly opposed the move of the then government, has introduced a similar ordinance this time, paving the way for political parties to split easily.

Like four months ago, the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government’s move to issue the ordinance is heavily criticized by leaders both from ruling and the opposition parties. And this time, KP Sharma Oli, now the leader of the main opposition CPN-UML, too is against the move.

Few months ago, opposition parties, including the Nepali Congress, termed KP Oli’s move to introduce ordinance skipping parliament as unconstitutional. 

This time, PM Deuba has followed in Oli’s footsteps. Shortly after recommending the President to prorogue the House Session, a Cabinet meeting decided to introduce the ordinance, under which political parties can split with 20 percent support in the Central Committee or Parliamentary Party.

Despite having several business for discussion, the government decided to end the House session, raising a fresh debate on the accountability of PM Deuba.

After the Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives overturning Oli’s unconstitutional dissolution, the first House session took place on July 18. Even after a month since the government’s formation, it failed to provide any business to the House; rather, PM Deuba chose to follow Oli’s path.

KP Oli, the parliamentary party leader of CPN-UML, has demanded the government scrap the ordinance, and call for a House Session within three days.

Reportedly, the ordinance is being introduced after discussion with the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the CPN-UML.

The UML seems intended to use the fresh crisis to fan the flames of anti-Congress sentiments and use it to its advantage. Moreover, Oli is likely to use it as a tool to unite his crisis-ridden party though the CPN-UML has decided to expel 14 leaders including senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal from the general membership of the party. A Standing Committee meeting of the party held on Tuesday dismissed them also as lawmakers.

Opposition in the mood of protest

In what appears to be a contradictory move, KP Sharma Oli, who introduced the same ordinance in July, has hinted at protesting against the government’s decision this time. The ordinance had garnered massive criticism then as, according to politicians, the ordinance was introduced to split the Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN).

Allegedly, UML leaders were also involved in the abduction of JSPN MP Surendra Yadav on April 22, days after Oli introduced the ordinance. According to Yadav, he was brought to Kathmandu from Bardibas forcefully as part of Oli’s bid to split his party–then known as Samajwadi Party Nepal. Yadav registered a complaint on the abduction case at Kathmandu District Attorney Office on May 5.

Issuing a release late night Monday, KP Oli accused the government of proroguing the House Session to introduce the ordinance to split the CPN-UML. “The move is not acceptable to CPN-UML,” Oli said in a statement, appealing to the cadres and lawmakers to stand firmly against any move to split the party.

According to Tula Narayan Shah, a political analyst, the ordinance has been brought to ease the split of the CPN-UML. “The ordinance has included provision to split political parties with support from 20 percent of Central Committee and Parliamentary Party members,” Shah said. 

“The Deuba-led government has made it even easier for parties to split as the ordinance brought by Oli had provision to split the party with the support of 40 percent members of the Central Committee or Parliamentary Party members.”

Shah, however, says the ordinance does not seem to be intended to ease the process to split JSPN.

Samikchya Baskota, a Bibeksheel Sajha Party leader, said the intention of the Deuba-led government is questionable. “This raises a moral question on Deuba,” she said. “If the government had to end the House Session early and introduce the ordinance, why was the parliament session called?” she questioned, adding the recent move will plunge the country into political instability.

Jagat Nepal, a senior journalist, said that Deuba’s move is outrightly wrong. “This move may metastasize and come back to haunt Deuba’s own party later,” he said. “This risks the split of Nepali Congress itself.”