PM's aide criticises move, says matter is in court
In a move with long-term political implications, Nepal’s president Ram Baran Yadav has termed the current Baburam Bhattarai-led government as a ‘caretaker’ arrangement, and called for ‘political consensus’.
A statement issued by the President’s office said that the office had been notified of the government’s decision to call for elections for a new Constituent Assembly (CA) on May 27, Sunday, at 11.25 pm. A little after midnight, the chairman of the CA had also informed the office of the President that the term of the CA and legislative-parliament had ended that night. The government’s letter had referred to the Supreme Court verdict which had ruled out further extension of the CA, and said that if the constitution was not promulgated, one option was fresh elections.
The statement then added that according to Article 38 (7) of the interim constitution, the PM would cease to be in office if he was ‘no longer a member of the legislature-parliament’. Since the CA and parliament had ceased to exist, the membership of PM – who had got elected as PM in his capacity as a member of the parliament – had also automatically ceased to exist. Referring to clause 9 of the same article, the president however reminded that till the next Council of Ministers was formed, the existing government would continue to carry out day to day affairs.
The president has also urged all political parties to work for ‘political consensus and co-operation’ in accordance with the ‘spirit of the interim constitution’. He also expressed the belief the political uncertainty born out of the ‘unexpected expiry of the CA’ would be resolved through peaceful and democratic means.
A senior PM aide strongly opposed the president’s move. Soon after the statement was released, PM Bhattarai’s press advisor, Ram Rijhan Yadav, told The Hindu, “This step of the president is not a good sign. A writ has been filed in the court about the constitutionality of the government. If the court is the final interpreter of the constitution, the president should wait for its decision. He should not have taken any step, and this has hurt the image of president’s office. Or it can be read as his effort to influence the SC.” He added that the president should run according to the cabinet, not the other way around. He said, “There will now be a battle between the PM and President. This cannot be accepted.”
Other observers said that the full implications of the president’s statement were not clear yet. A diplomatic source, on the condition of anonymity, said, “This could also be seen as the president stating the obvious and not taking over executive authority himself.”