Nepal’s PM Oli dissolves parliament, thwarts Chinese move to sacrifice him to keep ruling communist party united

KP Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal. (Photo courtesy: FB/Oli)

(, Dec21’20) – After months of hectic efforts to keep the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) united, and thereby its strong influence over the country, China could only watch in disappointment as Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli dropped a bombshell on his rivals in the party on Dec 20, recommending dissolution of the country’s 275-member House of Representatives. Election for the House was held in 2017, when the opposition Nepali Congress suffered a landslide defeat to a newly amalgamated communist party.

The Chinese ambassador had for months parleyed with the rival factions to keep the party united, with temporary successes, including by postponing moves by Oli’s rivals to remove him from his prime ministerial post.

Nepal’s constitution does not provide for dissolution of Parliament by a Prime Minister and many have gone to the Supreme Court to annul the decision which followed approval by the Pro-Oli President Bidya Devi Bhandari.

People familiar with the matter said PM Oli’s move to dissolve Parliament would give him a free hand to run the government and split the party formed in 2018 by the merger of his Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist Centre, noted the Dec 21.

“The prime minister has lost the majority in the parliamentary party, central committee and the secretariat of the party,” a Reuters report quoted Bishnu Rijal, a central committee member of the ruling party, as saying.

For months, main rival Prachanda had been trying to pin Oli down and had led several revolts against him, demanding a greater say in running the government.

Oli, who had led them to victory on the basis of a nationalist agenda had refused to yield, giving enough hints that he was prepared to split the Nepal Communist Party if he was pushed to the wall.

The report noted that Beijing had deputed its envoy to Nepal Hou Yanqi to hold a series of meetings in late April and early May — around the same time that China’s soldiers were crossing the line in eastern Ladakh — to hold consultations with Nepal’s communist leaders to get them to stay united.

Hou continued her interventions to keep the NCP united over the next few months. But when Oli’s camp figured out that China was okay with the ruling NCP giving the prime minister the pink slip if this was what it would take to avoid a split in the party, Oli acted to make good on his threat.

The report cited Nepal watchers as saying China, which initially seemed to back 68-year-old Oli, had changed tack earlier this year and was willing to sacrifice him if it would help keep the NCP united.

After Oli’s refused to step down, Hou carried out her interventions quietly. When meeting politicians from the ruling party, she would move around in unmarked cars or taxis in Kathmandu, the report cited a Nepal watcher as saying.

“There were two other formulas that the Chinese envoy continued to work on,” a person who tracks developments in Nepal politics was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity. Apart from negotiating a format where the NCP’s former prime minister Dahal and Madhav Nepal hold the strings of power minus PM Oli, ambassador Hou also explored the possibility of the NCP shunting out PM Oli and promoting Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam instead.

This was because Gautam comes from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) that PM Oli had headed before the 2018 merger. It was expected that this would minimise the damage that PM Oli could wreak on the party in case of a split.

The fourth option that the Chinese envoy explored was the possibility that the senior leadership of the NCP let the next generation leaders of the party who would be more amenable to a negotiated settlement take charge, the report cited Nepal watcher as saying.

PM Oli’s surprise Sunday move upended the Chinese efforts as well.


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