Instead of elections, which Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has announced for April-end, the country seems headed for more political confrontation. The rival Nepal Communist Party Dahal-Nepal faction has upped its ante against House dissolution. The opposition parties and a big section of the intelligentsia are on the street, protesting the ‘unconstitutional’ dissolution and ‘illegal’ appointment of officials to constitutional bodies. On the other hand, the NCP’s Oli faction has ramped up its poll preparations. All this is happening even as House dissolution as well as the Oli government’s other controversial decisions remain sub judice at the Supreme Court.
As the government head who called for elections, it is PM Oli’s responsibility to create a conducive climate of trust. If he does want elections, why make controversial appointments to constitutional bodies and further provoke his political opponents? How will such unilateral and legally questionable decisions help build trust for elections? Even in more stable times, April-end elections would have been nigh impossible, with all the logistical challenges they entail. This in turn boosts the claim of his critics that the announced elections are just a gimmick to prolong PM Oli’s tenure.
The strange thing is, right now, even the legal route to elections has not been cleared. Oli’s supporters urge their critics to wait for the apex court verdict, which is a sound legal advice. But legal niceties, say his critics, can be dispensed with when the country’s democratic process itself is on the line. Whatever the merit of their contrasting arguments, neither side has the right to use violence to press its case. Yet, as things stand, more violence has become inevitable.
Whether or not the House is restored, there is no option to going to the people for a fresh mandate. A restored House will also be bitterly divided, and it will be impossible to get anything done there. So, politically, the Supreme Court verdict is really irrelevant. This is why it is important to create broad political consensus on viable election dates and remove the disquieting state of uncertainty. But, again, the onus of taking those on the street into confidence on this lies with the prime minister—in what will also be a test of his faith in the democratic process.