Following almost a month of ambiguity and uncertainty on who leads the legitimate Nepal Communist Party, the recent decision of Elections Commission has made it clear that there is only one Nepal Communist Party now.
The Election Commission of Nepal decided that neither of the two factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) would be accorded a legitimate status.
The polling authority stated that since both the groups — led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal – Madhav Nepal and KP Sharma Oli — failed to follow due procedures, they would not gain recognition.
With this decision, the commission has maintained that Oli and Dahal remain the chairs of the party as the NCP, despite a split among warring factions, continues to remain the same legally and will notify both the groups accordingly.
Although the decision seems to have been neutral, the decision recognizes NCP led by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli as a legitimate party. Rejecting the claim by both the groups, Commission has made clear that there is no legal evidence to recognize either of them.
“The EC’s decision has recognized us as a legitimate party. Others are a hoax,” thundered Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli addressing a rally in Dang. “Now on election symbol, the sun is with us and original party is with us.”
Finding some ambiguity on the decision not clearly recognizing them as a legitimate party, NCP Prachanda and Nepal faction has issued a statement asking EC to recognize them as a legitimate party.
“There is a flaw in the EC’s decision. Since we have two third majorities of central committee members and standing committee member, EC should have recognized us as a legitimate party,” said Narayan Kazi Shrstha, spokesperson of Prachanda-Nepal led faction. “EC will come out with a clear cut decision recognizing us as a legitimate party.”
Just a few hours before the decision of EC, Dahal-Nepal faction had removed Oli from party’s general membership. The group accused Oli of not providing explanation for his recent moves as sought by the leadership.
Oli led faction has already taken a similar step removing Madhav Kumar Nepal and Pushpa Kamal Dahal from the general membership of the party. As both the groups are trying to discredit each other, the Supreme Court continues hearing on the petition of House dissolution.
Implications of EC’s Decision
Not recognizing the split of the party, EC has given a last chance for both the factions to unite again. Although both the groups are at the stage of fight to finish politically, the decision still gives hope for those who have been pushing for a patch-up between the two factions.
Along a strong communist group, Nepal’s northern neighbor China has already sent a high level delegation with a message for the unity within the party. Chinese delegation reportedly urged both the factions to forge unity, giving up differences.
Although EC’s decision is based on existing legal provisions, the decision gives space to those who still want a united strong communist party in Nepal. This decision also further pushes the possibility of the opposition Nepali Congress and Janta Party Nepal coming to join Nepal-Prachanda led front against PM Oli.
Following the decision, there is only one NCP now. It means there remain the two chairs and one general secretary. EC’s decision has also made it clear that only General Secretary Bishnu Poudel has the authority to verify and authenticate the legal document.
As the general secretary Poudel is with PM Oli side, Prachanda and Nepal led faction will have a very difficult choice now. Both the factions are claiming themselves as legitimate group and not demanding split, EC had also very little space. Not recognizing the split is the safest side for them.
Dissolution In Court
As the five-member constitutional bench of Supreme Court continues its hearing on the writ filed against the dissolution, EC’s decision may further strengthen the position of prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli.
Prime Minister Oli has been repeatedly saying that he dissolved the House of Representatives (HoR) of the federal parliament and opted to go for elections to take a fresh mandate of the people as “political horse trading” of Members of Parliament had begun once again in the country.
With the EC’s decision, PM Oli’s political power has further strengthened. Even in case of revival of house, he has the legal authority to issue the whip since he is the leader of parliamentary party.
As Nepal and Prachanda faction is adamant to announce split and get recognition as a separate party, they cannot do much. With over 400 member central committee members, it is difficult for verification. In the past, there used to be a small size of central committees, the split used to be a matter of minutes.
For Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, the political course is moving in his favor. Although a group of civil society are opposing his move supporting the issue raised by Nepal and Prachanda faction, two major political parties Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal have declined to launch a joint struggle.
They have made it clear that they are against the dissolution of House of Representatives but they accept the verdict of the court. Prachanda and Nepal-led Nepal Communist Party has repeatedly asked both the parties to join hands in a joint struggle against PM Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives.
NC General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka, who is close to party President Sher Bahadur Deuba, said the party had been protesting against the dissolution of the HoR and there was no question of a joint struggle.
Another NC leader Ananda Prasad Dhungana said his party had always led joint political struggles in the past, including during the popular movement of 1990 and 2006, but the communist party had always betrayed the nation. “We will not join any struggle to restore one faction against other. We will launch a joint struggle if there is real danger for democracy.”
He said his party had termed the dissolution of the HoR an ‘unconstitutional and undemocratic move’ but would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue.
Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal’s Rajendra Mahato said a joint struggle could happen only when the stakeholders reached understanding on addressing each other’s concerns after the agitation succeeded, but in this case, the Dahal and Nepal-led NCP had not discussed anything.
Mahato said that both the NC and NCP had betrayed Madhesi, Janajati and other marginalized groups and communities while framing the constitution and there was no guarantee they would not do the same again.
Mahato added that both factions of the NCP led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal were still averse to the demand of constitution amendment.
What Is Next
Given the present political equation, Nepal’s constitutional process is in a crisis. Whether the court orders for revival for the House of Representatives or dissolution, it makes the constitutional process irrelevant.
As all political leaders and civil society members are putting pressure and threat to the court to deliver the decision on their favor, it looks that the constitutional solution will be challenged by all.
Even constitutionalist Daman Nath Dhungana, who has spent his entire career for rule of law and constitutionalism, issued a statement saying that those pleading for elections were justifying lynching.
At a time when politics is already over the constitution, there is no meaning of constitutional interpretation and constitutionalism. Constitution works only in the normal circumstances and law abiding situation. When political issues come out, it is just a bunch of paper.
Given the current political trends and constitutional provisions, there is no option other than the elections. Prime Minister Oli will remain the prime minister and the house’s life will depend upon his decision. According to the constitution, a minority prime minister can recommend the dissolution of house and call fresh elections.
However, a political miracle, which one cannot rule out in Nepal, can avert major crises and clashes. If NCP’s two factions patch up their differences and agree to remain in the same party, the current political uncertainty will come to an end and elections can be averted for next two years.
“If NCP remains divided, elections are the only option. Whether one likes it not, there will be elections. If they cannot be held in April, there will be elections in November,” said former General Secretary of Nepali Congress Taranath Ranabhat.
Even Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa indicated that upcoming mid-term elections may be postponed if the court delays its verdict on the dissolution of the House of Representatives that is sub-judice in the court.
Whether the elections would take place in the scheduled time period (30 April and 10 May) depends on how soon the court delivers a verdict on the subject, he said. "The government is ready to organize the elections within the stipulated timeframe. The Election Commission and all security agencies are prepared for this. We are waiting for a court verdict," he said at a press conference organized by the Press Organization Nepal, Kalikot.
After EC’s decision, the political course has changed. If PM Oli is determined to hold the elections, he will still go for it as there is no constitutional way out under the current political situation.