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All-go for the PM

All-go for the PM

The inclusion of Upendra Yadav-led Sanghi­ya Samajbadi Forum gives the government of KP Sharma Oli over two-third majority in the federal lower house. As we went to press, the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), the other big Madhesi party besides the Forum, was also said to be ‘positive’ about joining the government. If the RJPN does indeed join, the ruling left coalition will, effective­ly, have absolute control over the federal government as well as all seven provincial governments, including in Province 2 that is ruled by a Forum-RJPN coalition.


This would make KP Sharma Oli, the leader of the left coalition, perhaps the most powerful prime minister of democratic Nepal. But PM Oli does not stop there. From now on the Prime Minister’s Office will directly oversee such vital state organs as the National Inves­tigation Department (which works on national securi­ty), the Department of Revenue Investigation (which investigates possible leakage of taxpayer money), and the Department of Anti-Money Laundering. Oli-led PMO will also directly oversee the functioning of NGOs and form think-tanks to advise the government on var­ious issues of national concern.


The prime minister, as such, will enjoy sweeping powers. This is not necessarily bad. This can be a sign that PM Oli aims to be a no-nonsense, hands-on prime minister. Nepal has long been saddled by weak prime ministers who were either uninterested in exercising their authority for the common good, or could not do so for various constraints of coalition politics. PM Oli, who hopes to make the PMO a ‘center of excellence’, now has few of these constraints.


In this light, this could be a start of a new era of good governance and accountability. It could also help bring the country together, if the prime minister is indeed serious about his commitment to amend the constitution to meet at least some demands of the Madhesi parties.


But there is also a risk. As the chairman of CPN-UML, a party that has come to be linked with various vested interests, particularly in health and education sectors, Oli could just as easily use his vast powers to strength­en and expand his patronage networks. If so, he will not be the first post-1990 prime minister of Nepal to abuse his authority. But for his sincere outreach to the Madhesi parties, his appointment of clean and capa­ble ministers in key portfolios and the can-do attitude on display in his early days as prime minister, PM Oli deserves our benefit of doubt for now.