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Nepal President dissolves Parliament, announces snap elections in November

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Nepal’s President dissolved the House of Representatives on Saturday for the second time in five months and announced snap elections in November, rejecting both embattled Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the Opposition alliance’s claims to form a government, a “regressive” move that will be legally challenged yet again.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced in an early morning statement that the House of Representatives has been dissolved in accordance with Article 76(7) of the Constitution, ending a day of high-voltage political drama in the Himalayan nation, amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

As per the Article, a date to conduct another election within six months must also be fixed. The President has called early elections pursuant to the Article, the dates being set for November 12 and November 19.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Oli in his last deal-sealing move on Friday midnight recommended the Office of the President to dissolve the 275-member House and announce dates for early elections.

Earlier, Oli and Opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba had staked separate claims to premiership, both of which were rejected by the president, citing that none had adequate grounds for winning a vote of confidence.

“It has been noted that Prime Minister Oli counted those lawmakers as his supporters who extended support to the Opposition alliance, whereas the UML and JSP-N have forwarded letters stating action would be taken against those who had gone against the party to endorse the Opposition’s claim,” Bhandari said in a statement late on Friday.

According to the statement from the President’s Office, 26 lawmakers of the CPN-UML and 12 lawmakers of the Janata Samajbadi Party had supported both Oli and Deuba.

The president’s announcement plunged Nepal into further political crisis, a reminder of her December 2020 decision when she first dissolved the House at Oli’s recommendation, a move that swayed the course of Nepali politics towards uncertainty. The Supreme Court had annulled the duo’s move in February.

Alarmed by the duo’s move yet again, the leaders of Nepal’s Opposition alliance on Saturday decided to take all legal and political means to counter Prime Minister Oli and President Bhandari’s “unconstitutional and undemocratic” move of dissolving the House.

In a joint statement issued at the end of a meeting called to discuss their future strategy, the Opposition leaders termed the President’s move unconstitutional, undemocratic, autocratic and regressive.

The President did not follow her constitutional responsibility of appointing a new prime minister on the basis of the constitutional claim as per Article 76 (5) of the constitution with signatures of majority lawmakers, the joint press statement said. by the parties after a meeting on Saturday to chart out their future strategy.

“Instead she sided with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli with malafide intentions and dissolved Parliament in an attack on the constitution and democracy. This regressive move has pushed the country towards new political polarisation and complexity.”

The statement was signed by Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN-Maoist Centre Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, Chairperson of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal Upendra Yadav and Vice-Chair of the Rastriya Janamorcha Durga Paudel.

The Opposition alliance is devising a strategy to approach the Supreme Court with all its lawmakers on Sunday demanding to scrap the president’s decision.

The parties blamed the president for making an assault on the Constitution and democracy in partnership with the prime minister, who had lost a trust vote in the House. The parties claimed that the government is hell-bent on its attempt to prolong the autocratic rule despite the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Nepali Congress also accused President Bhandari and Prime Minister Oli of misusing the Constitution for their own benefit as their personal property.

“Prime Minister Oli recommending forming a new government, President Bhandari announcing to stake a claim to form new government giving less than 24 hours, not appointing prime minister as per the provision of the Constitution and dissolving HoR and holding a Cabinet meeting in the middle of the night are unconstitutional and anti-democratic,” the party said in a statement.

“NC strongly objects to these kinds of activities,” it said. Deuba, urging all the democratic forces to unite and act together for the protection of the Constitution and democracy, vowed to take political and legal action against the House dissolution.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Agni Prasad Sapkota also said President Bhandari’s decision to dissolve the House is against the spirit of the Constitution of Nepal.

“The unprecedented move is against the political struggle and verdict of the apex court which had annulled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s earlier move of dismantling the parliament on December 20, 2020,” Sapkota said in a statement.

Nepal’s political crisis took a dramatic turn on Friday as embattled Prime Minister Oli and the Opposition parties staked separate claims for the formation of a new government by submitting letters of support from lawmakers to the president.

Oli claimed the support of 121 lawmakers from his own party CPN-UML and 32 lawmakers of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) for his reappointment pursuant to Article 76(5) of the Constitution.

Nepali Congress President Deuba claimed to have garnered the support of 149 lawmakers. However, a dispute emerged after a few lawmakers from the Madhav Nepal faction put out statements claiming that their signatures were misused and that they did not sign any paper to install Opposition leader Deuba as the prime minister against their own party chief.

Earlier on Thursday, the president’s office stated that the government had forwarded a request to invoke Article 76 (5) as Prime Minister Oli, it has been learnt, is in no mood to undergo another parliamentary floor test as there is no prospect of an otherwise result given the complex internal dynamics within parties represented in the federal parliament.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

Oli’s move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival ‘Prachanda’. In February, the apex court reinstated the dissolved House, in a setback to Oli who was preparing for snap polls.

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