In an emergency Cabinet meeting held on Sunday morning, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli recommended the dissolution of Parliament of Nepal and called for general election.
The decision was ratified by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in an official announcement hours later.
“Prime Minister Oli had the mandate to govern Nepal but there were lingering problems among the higher ranks of the ruling party as senior leaders were unable to go with the PM. There is a tradition in democracy to deal with such situations by going back to the people and Prime Minister Oli has decided to seek fresh mandate,” Rajan Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Oli, told The Hindu from Kathmandu.
The President has called for a two-phase election to be held on April 30 and May 10 next year. The dramatic move came after weeks of tension with challenger Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, who has been demanding that Mr. Oli change his style of governance.
Protests break out
Immediately, after the announcement, seven Ministers close to Mr. Prachanda announced their resignation at a press conference.
Mr. Oli’s announcement was followed by deployment of quick action forces across capital Kathmandu and other major Nepal cities and towns where protests broke out spontaneously.
Nepal held election in November-December 2017 and the elected 275-member Pratinidhi Sabha is expected to serve a full five-year term.
Indicating fast-paced political changes, the rival faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Mr. Prachanda and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal formed a joint platform to protest against Mr. Oli’s move, alongside the Janata Samajvadi Party of former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and the Nepali Congress.
The dissolution of Parliament prompted a meeting of the pro-Prachanda faction in the Standing Committee of the NCP on Sunday. The group decided to take disciplinary action against Mr. Oli.
Both the factions of the NCP are expected to meet on Monday. In the meanwhile, at least three writ petitions were filed in the Supreme Court of Nepal on Sunday. Sources in the NCP said the party is expecting more such petitions to be filed on Monday.
Mr. Oli’s government, in recent weeks, was unable to pass politically sensitive decisions due to the opposition in the Standing Committee, where Mr. Prachanda’s faction is in majority.
The tension between the two factions has been growing since May, with Mr. Prachanda repeatedly accusing Mr. Oli of not consulting the party’s organs for key decisions. Both sides came together to claim the Kalapani region of India and helped in the passing of a new political map of Nepal. However, bickering began soon after Parliament passed the new map on June 13.
It is well known that Mr. Prachanda had been unhappy about the appointment of key Ambassadors and Cabinet Ministers without adequate consultation with the Standing Committee. The situation worsened this month as Mr. Oli failed to get ordinances passed through the party’s higher organs because of the opposition from the Prachanda faction.
The move to dissolve Parliament has drawn strong criticism both from the Opposition and the members of the ruling coalition. “The decision is unconstitutional as there is no provision in our 2015 Constitution to dissolve Parliament that is functioning perfectly well. The problem was inside the Nepal Communist Party and the Prime Minister cannot attack Parliament for his inability to deal with intra-party dissidents,” said Rajendra Mahto of the Janata Samajvadi Party. He added that Nepal faces an uncertain future due to the decision. “The decision amounts to a coup.”
Political leaders, including former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, have cautioned about the future of Nepal in the backdrop of the Cabinet decision.
“Prime Minister Oli’s recommendation is extremely unfortunate and a blot in Nepal’s politics. This goes against the interest of democracy. All political parties of Nepal must protest against this development,” Mr. Bhattarai said.