Nepal’s embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Sunday sprang a surprise on his rivals and got the President to dissolve Parliament, a controversial move amidst a prolonged tussle for power between him and former premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved Parliament's House of Representatives at Oli’s recommendation and announced mid-term general election in April-May, a decision criticised by the Opposition as unconstitutional.
Earlier, an emergency meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Oli decided to recommend the President for the dissolution of Parliament, a senior Standing Committee member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) told PTI.
The first phase of the mid-term election will be held on April 30 and May 10 for the second phase, according to a notice issued by the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The 275-member House of Representatives, which is the lower house of Parliament, was elected in 2017 for a five-year term. The upper house is the National Assembly.
The move comes as the intra-party feud reached a climax in the ruling NCP which has been witnessing months-long tussle between two factions, one led by 68-year-old Oli and Party’s chairman and another led by 66-year-old “Prachanda”, also the executive chair of the party and former premier.
Spokesperson of the ruling NCP Narayankaji Shrestha has termed Oli’s move as “undemocratic, anti-constitutional and autocratic”.
He said that the ruling party will hold its Standing Committee meeting to discuss the matter.
Senior leader of the ruling NCP and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has termed the move as unconstitutional.
Leaders of the ruling NCP have gathered at Prachanda's residence to discuss Oli’s decision.
"The leaders have consulted about the problems caused by the decision of PM Oli," said Prachanda’s press advisor Bishnu Sapkota said, adding that Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha among others were present in the meeting.
Prachanda and other party leaders will be visiting the Prime Minister’s residence to hold talks on the recent political development.
Prachanda had visited Oli’s residence on Sunday morning as well, but he had returned without meeting the Prime Minister, The Rising Nepal reported.
Meanwhile, constitutional experts have termed the move to dissolve Parliament as unconstitutional.
As per the provision of Nepal’s Constitution, there is no provision of dissolving Parliament by the Prime Minister of a majority government, they said, adding that Oli's move is likely to be challenged in the court.
As long as there is a possibility of forming the government, there is no provision to dissolve the House, said constitutional expert Dinesh Tripathi.
Another constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said Oli’s recommendation to dissolve the House was a constitutional coup.
“The Nepalese Constitution doesn’t allow the PM to go for a mid-term election by dissolving the House of Representatives if there is the possibility of forming the government from within Parliament,” he said.
Terming Oli’s move “unconstitutional and irresponsible”, former prime minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai said: “By inviting political uncertainty like before, this decision has torn apart our effort to improve the system from the Constitution Assembly. This is against democratic values and the constitution.
“In the new Constitution, we had decided the term of the House of Representatives for five years in order to ensure political stability. Considering the political instabilities in the past, we had made sure that no instabilities would be invited by dissolving the parliament before the end of its tenure”.
The main Opposition Nepali Congress (NC) has called an emergency meeting of the party on Sunday.
The move comes a day after the NC and the Rastriya Janata Party decided to ask the President for summoning a Special Session of Parliament.
NC president and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba recently came down heavily upon the Oli government for its “attempts to impose one-party totalitarian rule in the country.”
The Prachanda and Madhav Nepal faction had been urging Oli to quit the post of Prime Minister amidst growing accusation and counter-accusation between the two factions in the ruling NCP.
On November 13, in his 19-page political document presented at the NCP’s Secretariat meeting, Prachanda criticised Oli for failing to properly run both the government and the party, and even accused Oli of corruption.
Oli, known for his pro-China leanings, however, denied the allegations and challenged Prachanda to legally prove the graft charges or apologise.
The prime minister had submitted a separate 38-page political document in response to the allegations made by Prachanda.
In June, Oli claimed that efforts were being made to oust him after his government redrew the country's political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories.
India had termed as "untenable" the "artificial enlargement" of the territorial claims by Nepal after its Parliament unanimously approved the new political map of the country featuring Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura areas which India maintains belong to it.
The NCP, formed after the merger between Oli led CPN-UML and Prachanda led CPN (Maoist Centre) in May 2018, is divided along the two factions led by Oli and Prachanda.
The Prachanda faction enjoys a majority in the nine-member Secretariat, the highest decision-making body of the party.