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Editorial: No house, no money

Editorial: No house, no money

The House deadlock that threatens to freeze government spending perfectly highlights the irresponsibility of our major political forces. The Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government kept delaying the parliamentary endorsement of its budget bill fearing that it didn’t have the requisite numbers.

The government decided to press ahead with the bill only when it became certain of a majority. On the other hand, CPN-UML, the main opposition, has been disrupting house proceedings accusing Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota of bias as he refused to dismiss 14 renegade UML MPs. UML has also boycotted Sapkota’s initiatives to reopen the house. This is not a battle that appears ripe for an early resolution.

As a result, for the first time in the democratic history of Nepal, government spending could come to a halt, even as the country is neck-deep in the Covid-19 crisis and an urgent outlay is vital for timely procurement and distribution of vaccines. All development activities will stop. Meanwhile, the ruling as well as opposition parties, seem determined to tire each other out.

The previous government of KP Oli was much maligned for playing fast and loose with democratic norms before the Supreme Court ordered its ouster. Yet the current Deuba government seems no better in terms of misusing state offices and coffers. Oli, at the same time, continues to cross new frontiers every day by using the most disparaging language against his political opponents and by encouraging his MPs to act violently inside the parliament.

Deuba’s time in office should have been used, first and foremost, to clear the way for the three tiers of elections which must be completed before the November 2022 constitutional deadline. Yet it is hard to see the country head to elections in such a toxic political climate. Given the course of events over the past year or so, there is a possibility of a constitutional vacuum, come November 2022. Hopefully, our major political actors will pull back from the brink while they still have time. Their current strategy of smashing democratic norms to smite their opponents is self-defeating.