Next Door Nepal: Chinese checkers

As Oli and Prachanda manoeuvre for office, proximity to Beijing may suffer.

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Published:July 25, 2016 12:49 am
Yubaraj Ghimire K. P. Oli

K. P. Oli’s exit as Nepal’s prime minister when the vote of no-confidence against him is put to vote is a foregone conclusion, but will any one succeed him constitutionally? The interested parties and partisan lawyers are interpreting the situation in ways that suit their purposes.

After ensuring Oli’s defeat in the no-trust motion, the challenge before the sponsors of the motion is to not let the prime minister continue in a caretaker capacity for long. Letting him do so will lead to Oli becoming more powerful and far less accountable.

The dangerous precedents in Nepal’s long transition to a republic — an interim PM continuing for long, at least three caretaker prime ministers holding on to their posts for seven to 14 months, and a sitting chief justice collaborating with political parties — and vague provisions in the constitution about a successor to the PM leaves the matter to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s discretion. But given her past — vice chairperson in the Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist — is not likely to escape the ire of the aggrieved parties even if her decision is fair by all yardsticks.

The Nepali Congress and the Maoists are determined that any move by the president to stall the election of Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal as Oli’s successor on the pretext that there is no constitutional clarity over succession will lead to Bhandari’s impeachment. That shows the level of distrust among the political parties that were together in the movement for restoration of democracy in 2006. In September 2015, nine years after they assumed power, they delivered a half-baked constitution which the two sides, now at loggerheads, claimed to be the best in the world.

However, the three major parties — Nepali Congress and the Maoists on one side, and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, that Oli heads, on the other — are disputing the constitution’s provisions on finding a successor to a PM who has lost the house’s trust. The matter is not likely to be settled by the merits of their arguments or through an emulation of best practices in Nepal or elsewhere in the world. The side that has the numbers will win this tussle. On Friday, Oli refused to put in his papers in exchange of the sponsors of the no-trust motion withdrawing their motion and passing the finance bills in one go. Speaker Onsari Gharti, who belongs to the Maoist Party, deferred the debate on the motion by a day to give the parties time to come to a consensus on Oli’s successor. But, he finally gave in. Interestingly, the Maoists voted against the finance bills that were tabled by the Oli government when they were part of the coalition.

Nepal has been ruled by unstable coalitions for a decade. But unlike in the past the issue this time is not about “who will succeed”.

Political circles are debating “what will happen” to Nepal’s growing — and meaningful — proximity to China in proportion to its distance with India. Given China’s clear message that its president, Xi Jinping, will visit Nepal in a few months only if there is political stability in the country, any failure to resolve the political impasse will be deemed a setback. For India, that will be something to cheer about as not only did Oli take an anti-India position in the wake of its “interference” and its refusal to welcome the constitution, but he also directed the focus of his country’s foreign policy northward after the five-month long blockade created hardship and shortage in Nepal.

In March, Nepal and China signed some transit agreements. China secured the contract to build an international airport in the tourist city of Pokhara, where it will set up a consulate soon. Seen in the light of China’s growing engagement with Nepal, to the detriment of India, President Xi’s visit would have been a milestone.

“The withdrawal of support to the K. P. Oli government by the Maoists is clearly a move at the behest of external forces, who are interested in stalling the Chinese president’s visit,” Sherdhan Rai, communication minister in the current coalition, says. Oli was not as explicit, but at his party meeting he is said to have expressed suspicion that India had a role in instigating the no-trust motion. Whether that’s an angry reaction or one borne out of evidence is anybody’s guess, but India has often been charged of “micromanaging Nepal affairs” —including by the Maoist chief, Dahal.

But in the clash of perceptions over foreign influence, the role of the constitution will cease to matter and the sanctity of the offices of the speaker and the president is likely to be adversely affected. This is likely to have an effect on the morale and functioning of the security agencies, including Nepal’s army, as well as the civil administration.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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  1. B
    Bihari Krishna
    Jul 25, 2016 at 9:32 am
    What is lately happening in Nepal is only the continuity of the political instability that has marred the country ever since the restoration of the Indian-style of democracy with Indian istance in 1990. As in India, the highlights of our democracy have been: hungry and corrupt politicians, unaccountable and corrupt politics, dispossessed and disenfranchised people, and the country condemned to remain one of the poorest in the world. a phenomenon that stands in total negation of what a democracy should have been. So, by all accounts, Nepal's politics has been ailing for a long time. The Maoists themselves remain in total and complete grip of the Indian establishment, firstly, because the former owe a debt of graude to the latter for hosting them during their killing spree, misleadingly called people's war, and secondly, because, they know that India has the ability to get them prosecuted in international court for what could be their "crime against humanity". So, Maoists in particular have been working as the conduit for the Indian agenda of weakening Nepal, if not breaking it up altogether, through the agenda of federalization that Nepalese had never even dreamt of otherwise. Then, there is the handful of "Bharatbadi" Madhesi politicians who are championing an even more dangerous version of the same agenda, i.e. the delineation of one or two tarai exclusive provinces in federal Nepal that makes no social, political or economic sense, other than, of course, choking Nepal more effectively in the next blockade by India. Given such a messy situation all around and the hopelessly drafted and opportunistically promulgated consution that hardly reflects Nepal's problems and aspirations, there is a compelling need for starting all over again from a clean slate. The only way to do it is for Presidential rule for about a year during which time a new rule of politics would be laid down in the new consution that would be voted upon by the people before a new elected government would take office. For this purpose, the President should enlist the support of the security forces internally, and of the diplomatic community internationally. But this is what the President herself owes to her motherland.
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    NIRAJAN SINGH
    Jul 26, 2016 at 7:52 am
    The celebration in India is such that it seems like they have just won World Cup ! lt;br/gt;Indian regime need to review its foreign policy and its atude vis a vis Nepal because Nepal has changed significantly while the Babus in Delhi are still basking in 1980s ! India must change before it is too late!!
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    Potthai Lang
    Jul 26, 2016 at 3:37 am
    Indians will not be able to rejoice for long. Because It's suious mindset will destroy every good things or friend it has. India will interfere Nepal's internal affairs again soon and bully Nepal again.
    Reply
  4. T
    Tilak Shrestha
    Jul 27, 2016 at 5:55 pm
    This report deliberately does not tell the w truth and is misleading. PM Oli became India's target, when he did not bow to the Indian illegal and immoral blockade. Nepal / Oli had no choice but to seek trade diversity with China for survival against the evil Indian blockade. That is the Oli's sin against India. Finally, India is able to put together corrupt Nepali Congress and terrorist Maoist to topple working government of PM Oli.lt;br/gt;What India do not realize is that people of Nepal have suffered but will not our sovereignty. Today, with schools, colleges and internet people are well informed. You will see people response in the coming election.lt;br/gt;The pea brained Indian leaders do not realize that Independent, Hindu and Democratic Nepal is brother to India. On the other hand, a Christian and Communist Nepal will be a perpetual migraine. Unfortunately, India is pushing Nepal to the same corner.
    Reply
  5. S
    sunil shakya
    Jul 26, 2016 at 3:16 am
    The celebration in India is such that it seems like they have just won World Cup ! lt;br/gt;Indian regime need to review its foreign policy and its atude vis a vis Nepal because Nepal has changed significantly while the Babus in Delhi are still basking in 1980s ! India must change before it is too late!!
    Reply
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