New Delhi: China’s desperate attempts to bring about a patch-up between the two warring factions of the Nepal Communist Party have come a cropper, plunging the Himalayan country into a political crisis at a time when the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has also peaked in the country.
After the fall of the KP Sharma Oli government Monday, Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari has called the country’s political parties to form a new government by Thursday. She has asked Oli to be the caretaker prime minister till then.
According to sources, during the past couple of weeks, Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, had lobbied with senior Nepalese MPs to gather support for Oli to ensure his victory in the vote of confidence on the floor of Parliament.
China wants someone loyal to Beijing as PM and it was concerned over the weakening communist influence in South Asia with the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) splitting into two factions – one led by prime minister Oli, and the second by former prime minister Prachanda, who is also the executive chairman of the party.
Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi’s efforts to settle the differences between Oli and Prachanda proved futile and last week, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) a key faction led by Pushpakamal Dahal “Prachanda” withdrew support to the government. Consequently, Oli lost the vote of confidence in Parliament on Monday.
Many analysts believe that Oli is down but he still has a chance to regain power.
Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari has initiated the process to form a new government under Article 76 (2) of the constitution and in cases where no party has a clear majority in the House of Representatives, the President shall appoint as prime minister a member of the House of Representatives who can command majority with the support of two or more parties, according to the Nepalese constitution.
If the opposition parties fail to form a new government, the President, as per the constitution, has to invoke Article 76 (3), which says ” in cases where the prime minister cannot be appointed under Clause (2)… or the prime minister so appointed fails to secure a vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of appointment, the President shall appoint as prime minister the parliamentary party leader of the party which has the highest number of members in the House of Representatives.”
In the current equation, Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) popularly known as CPN-UML, with 121 representatives, is the party with the largest number of members in the House but the Madhav Nepal-led faction of CPN-UML with 32 lawmakers abstained from the voting process. The Nepal-Khanal faction for the last few days had been saying that its lawmakers would resign.
However, they did not. And instead, Monday morning, they decided to remain absent. A UML Standing Committee member close to Oli said the party has no plans to initiate action against the Nepal-Khanal faction lawmakers as that could make it easier for the opposition parties to form a new government. In fact now Oli is trying to “pacify” them.
There are currently 271 MPs in the parliament and for any faction would need 136 votes to form the government. Nepal’s political situation is such that no single party now can form a government without the support of at least one other party.
“Given the voting pattern, it looks like things are moving the way Oli wants them to move. Now the onus to form a new government and unseat him lies with the opposition parties, but they cannot do so because of their own differences,” says Sharad Singh Bhandari of NCP.
According to observers, if the opposition parties fail to form a government under Article 76 (2) and if Oli gets re-appointed as per Article 76 (3), he needs to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of the appointment and failure to do so would lead to House dissolution and fresh elections and China is preparing for that too.
China’s COVID card
Meanwhile, Nepal’s COVID-19 tally crossed the 400,000 mark and reached 403,794 Monday with the addition of 9,127 fresh cases and PM Oli has asked for help.
“I have appealed to the international community to help us with vaccines, diagnostic tools, oxygen kits, critical care medicines and equipment, to support our efforts to save lives. Our urgent goal is to stop preventable deaths,” Oli said.
China has said that it will continue to do its best to offer support to Nepal in its fight against COVID-19. “We believe the Nepalese people will defeat the virus at an early date,” Chinese ambassador in Nepal, Hou Yanqi said in a tweet. “The first batch of oxygen cylinders and ventilators donated by the Chinese government will arrive in Kathmandu tomorrow! We wish friendly Nepali people an early victory over the pandemic! China will continue to do its best to offer support to Nepal in its fight against #COVID19,” she added.