Prachanda wins vote of confidence for fourth time amid Opposition protests

Nepali Congress boycotts proceedings, raises questions over the intent of Prime Minister and Speaker 

Updated - May 20, 2024 09:55 pm IST

Published - May 20, 2024 09:27 pm IST - KATHMANDU

Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal waves to media after winning a vote of confidence in parliament in Kathmandu on Monday.

Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal waves to media after winning a vote of confidence in parliament in Kathmandu on Monday. | Photo Credit: AP

When Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ went for a vote of confidence on January 10, 2023, days after he was elected the Prime Minister of Nepal, 268 parliamentarians of the 270 present in the 275-member parliament had voted in his favour.

On Monday, Prachanda once again sought a vote of confidence, for the fourth time within 18 months as the Prime Minister. He secured 157 votes. While one lawmaker stayed neutral, the rest were absent.

Prachanda may have survived, but in the first and fourth floor tests that he has gone for since assuming office on December 25, 2022, there has been a sharp contrast.

On technical grounds, he has saved his Prime Minister’s post, but it is apparent that the confidence the House had in him has waned, according to analysts. They say that the entire House appeared to have its confidence in the Prime Minister about a year and a half ago.

“The Prime Minister may have won the vote of confidence technically, but there are questions over the political legitimacy of this vote,” said Daman Nath Dhungana, a former House Speaker. “The way the whole proceedings were taken forward raises too many questions, including over the role of the House Speaker.”

On January 10 last year, the Nepali Congress (NC), the single largest party with the 88 seats, had voted in Prachanda’s favour, rendering the House Opposition-less. On Monday, the NC boycotted proceedings after the Prime Minister was allowed by Speaker Dev Raj Ghimire to seek the vote of confidence even as NC lawmakers protested and chanted slogans.

NC Chief Whip Ramesh Lekhak told media later on Monday that the Prime Minister turned the parliament into barracks to take the vote of confidence. Mr. Ghimire failed to maintain the decorum of his post, the NC concluded.

“The Speaker failed to play the role as required by the post. He cannot present himself as a member of a certain party,” said Mr. Lekhak.

Monday’s was the second vote of confidence Prachanda, 69, sought since his decision to break his alliance with the NC in March.

As per the Constitution of Nepal, the Prime Minister is required to take a vote of confidence within 30 days if the party the Prime Minister is representing splits or if a member of the coalition government withdraws support. Mr. Prachanda had to go for the floor test this time because Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal withdrew its support on May 13.

Though Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) had fought the November 2022 general elections under an alliance with the NC, he was elected the Prime Minister on December 25 that year with the support of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), or CPN (UML), the second largest party in parliament with 78 seats. A dispute between Prachanda and NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba over leading the government had prompted the Maoist leader to join hands with the CPN (UML).

After he backed the NC’s candidate for the presidential post, the UML withdrew its support in February last year, paving the way for the formation of the Maoist-Congress alliance. But after 13 months, in the first week of March, Prachanda in a sudden move ditched the NC to go back to the UML, and he inducted Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), which has 21 seats, into the Cabinet. He appointed RSP President Rabi Lamichhane as the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister.

Mr. Lamichhane, however, is embroiled in a controversy with allegations that he had embezzled cooperative funds when he was serving as the managing director of a television company before joining politics.

The NC has been demanding that a parliamentary committee be formed to probe into cooperative fund embezzlement allegations against Mr. Lamichhane. On Monday too, as soon as the House proceedings began, NC parliamentarians rose from their seats in protest. But Mr. Ghimire deployed marshals.

Prachanda, who was marshalled to the podium, described the NC’s protest as a blot in Nepal’s history.

“You committed a huge mistake today. By trying to obstruct the Prime Minister from taking a vote of confidence, you have set a bad example,” said Prachanda, a former rebel leader, hinting at the NC. “You will have to pay a big price for this.”

After the confidence vote, the next meeting of Parliament was announced for Tuesday. The NC, however, has said it would continue to obstruct the proceedings.

Mr. Dhungana, the former House Speaker who also played a crucial role during the peace process after the end of the Maoist war led by Prachanda, said the ruling coalition and the House Speaker made a mockery of the parliamentary system as they failed to offer the slightest of respect to the Opposition.

“How can such a confidence vote be termed a confidence vote when a simple parliamentary process like this has been bulldozed?” said Mr. Dhungana. “It is incumbent upon the Prime Minister to take the Opposition into confidence and upon the Speaker to keep the House in order.”

The NC has concluded that the Prime Minister displayed an autocratic tendency by forcefully going for a vote of confidence on Monday, even as he had ample time to do so.

“As per the constitutional provision, the Prime Minister had 30 days to go for the confidence vote,” said Mr. Lekhak. “When the main Opposition has been demanding a parliamentary probe committee, the Prime Minister and the Speaker should have paid heed to it.”

The rift between the Prime Minister and the main Opposition NC has further widened at a time when the government is preparing to present the annual budget. As per the constitutional provision, the government must table the budget in Parliament on May 28.

Due to NC’s obstructions, the Parliament has not been able to deliberate on the government’s policies and programmes, presented by President Ram Chandra Poudel on May 14. If the NC’s obstruction continues, the government will be left with no option than to bring the budget through an ordinance, as failure to meet the May 28 deadline would mean a violation of the Constitution.

Mr. Dhungana said Prachanda and the coalition led by him have driven the main Opposition into a corner.

“The NC appears to be in a mood to go to any extent till its demand is met,” he said. “The Prime Minister’s failure to make any effort to reach an understanding with the Opposition before going for a confidence vote may cost him dearly.”

(Sanjeev Satgainya is an independent journalist based in Kathmandu)

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.