The appointment of Sher Bahadur Deuba as Nepal’s Prime Minister for a record fifth time after the Supreme Court’s intervention does not seem to provide the much sought-after political stability in the country as he will have to go for a floor test in Parliament within 30 days.
Even if the 75-year-old veteran politician and Nepali Congress (NC) president, who has only 61 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives, somehow wins the confidence vote, fresh elections will have to be conducted in 18 months, The Kathmandu Post newspaper reported. If he loses the floor test, the country will go to polls in six months, it said.
The House of Representatives — the lower house of Nepal’s Parliament — has completed more than three-and-a-half years of its five-year tenure.
In its order to appoint Deuba as prime minister, the Supreme Court on Monday said that he should complete the process of getting the vote of confidence as per Article 76 (6) of the Constitution, the report said.
According to Article 76 (6), he will have to go for a floor test in Parliament within 30 days of appointment, it said.
“The result of the vote of trust will decide the fate of the Deuba government,” the newspaper quoted Bipin Adhikari, former dean at Kathmandu University School of Law, as saying.
Deuba, notwithstanding his 61 seats in the House, had staked claim to form the government with the support of lawmakers from four other parties — the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified MarxistûLeninist), the Upendra Yadav faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha.
Altogether, 149 members of the House of Representatives supported him, including 26 from the Madhav Nepal faction of the UML. If the 26 UML dissidents continue to support him, Deuba’s tenure will last for one-and-a-half-years when general elections are to be held. If not, fresh elections have to be called within six months, as per Article 76(7) of the Constitution, the report said.
Leaders of the UML, meanwhile, say it is unlikely that they will support Deuba.
“The UML will be a united party by then (by the time of the vote of trust). It will make a decision where to stand and we will follow that,” Gokarna Bista, a UML secretary close to Madhav Nepal, told the newspaper.
During a meeting with other leaders of the parties that supported Deuba following the Supreme Court verdict on Monday evening, Madhav Nepal said he might not remain in the alliance now on, it said.
That will leave Deuba with the support of just 123 lawmakers — 61 from the Nepali Congress, 49 from the Maoist Centre, 12 from the Upendra Yadav faction of Janata Samajbadi Party and one from Rastriya Janamorcha.
Deuba needs 136 votes as there are only 271 members in the House presently, the report said.
In Deuba’s probable favour, there is a legal loophole for the Madhav Nepal faction of the UML to support him and yet not be expelled from the party.
In its verdict on Monday, the Supreme Court said that party whip is not applicable in the case of supporting a prime minister to be appointed on the basis of Article 76 (5).
According to senior advocate Govinda Bandi, the verdict means that the party cannot take action against its lawmakers for supporting Deuba in the vote of confidence as well.
Whatever the legal interpretation of the Supreme Court verdict, the NC leaders are confident that the Madhav Nepal faction will continue to support them, the report said.
Earlier, outgoing Prime Minister Oli accused the apex court of “deliberately” passing the verdict in favour of the Opposition parties.
Oli, 69, claimed the majority of people still supported him but he was leaving just to implement the apex court’s order. He said the government was successful as it expedited development works across the country and made efforts to control the Covid-19 crisis.
Oli said he would like to see the country go to the general elections as soon as possible, hoping his CPN-UML would emerge victorious again. Using his party’s election symbol of the sun as a pun, Oli said clouds could hide the sun for a time being but it would soon rise again.
Deuba has previously served as Nepal’s Prime Minister four times from June 2017-February 2018, June 2004-February 2005, July 2001-October 2002 and September 1995-March 1997.