After serving as Prime Minister twice under the constitutional monarchy and once under an active monarch, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba has become Prime Minister for a fourth time in a republic. Congratulations to Deuba, and we hope that Nepal finds a mature leader in the septuagenarian PM.
Deuba’s tenure this time could be relatively easier. The coalition that he is leading has already ruled the country for one year, and is unlikely to unravel for another year. Deuba is expected to hold all three elections by November, and the Maoists will certainly not pull out of this coalition before that.
Preparations for the second phase of local elections are in full swing, and Deuba will get due credit for holding them. But he would face bigger obstacles in holding provincial and parliamentary elections. Madhesi parties are pushing for redrawing of federal boundaries before provincial elections. Persuading them to participate in all the elections will be his biggest test.
The country has just witnessed impressive GDP growth, the political transition is nearly over. Mega development projects are being completed. Nepal’s relations with neighbours have improved markedly. So it should be a smooth ride for Deuba compared to his previous three tumultuous tenures. He just needs to avoid repeating past mistakes, and focus on solving the present political crisis.
Editorial in Nagarik, 7 June
New Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has two priorities: holding all three elections before January and amending the Constitution. Success or failure of his fourth tenure as PM will largely depend on how he deals with these challenges.
Deuba was sacked by King Gyanendra for failing to hold parliamentary elections during his second tenure. As he returns to power after 12 years, he again faces a similar task. He needs to hold the second phase of local elections in 20 days, and provincial and federal elections before 28 January. This is going to be his foremost challenge.
Deuba’s second challenge is to bring Madhesi dissenters on the board by amending the Constitution. The Madhes-based Rastriya Janata Party has threatened to disrupt local elections if the Constitution is not amended beforehand. Nearly two-thirds MPs have voted for Deuba, and he just needs a few more to amend the Constitution. But it is not certain whether all the MPs who voted for him will also support the amendment bill. So securing a two-third majority for the amendment is still not as easy as it looks.
Deuba has other challenges. Of late, India and China have shown heightened interest in Nepal and Deuba will have to maintain equidistance. Deuba and his coalition partner Pushpa Kamal Dahal have a common position on transitional justice, but they have to respect international principles. The UML will not allow them to have their way on this issue.
Deuba’s party constantly criticised the UML government for delaying post-earthquake reconstruction. When it formed a new government with the Maoists, it sacked the CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), a UML appointee. Now the NC leads the government and its man is at the NRA’s helm. Deuba will face more criticism if reconstruction is not expedited.