Nepal takes 1 step forward, 2 steps back
Nepal’s political drama took another unexpected turn on Sunday as the Supreme Court ruled that the name Nepal Communist Party (NCP) belonged to another group, taking the country back to where it was three years ago when the ruling party was made up of two entities.
The 12-page decision came two hours before the House of Representatives reconvened after another Supreme Court ruling on 23 February that overturned Prime Minister K P Oli’s decision two months earlier to dissolve the House and call early elections.
Sunday’s decision means that for all practical purposes the NCP is once more divided between Oli’s moderate left Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party and the Maoist Centre led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Dahal had led the Maoist guerrillas in a ten-year insurgency and had forged an electoral alliance with Oli to fight the 2017 elections, which it swept and the two parties formally united in 2018.
Ever since, Dahal and Oli had been tangled in a bitter power struggle within the party, and when Oli got wind that a vote of no confidence was being registered in the Lower House by the rival faction, he dissolved it on 20 December.
There was uncertainty in the Lower House when it reconvened on Sunday (pictured below) as per the Supreme Court ruling, with confusion as to whether the Dahal faction was on the ruling bench or the opposition one.
The political fate of many senior politicians is now in doubt, as there were former Maoists like Ram Bahadur Thapa in Oli’s camp, and many ex-UML leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal with Dahal.
The Supreme Court decision on Sunday said: ‘Since the Election Commission decision, the Nepal Communist Party (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist Centre) will revert to their previous separate status unless they re-register themselves as a single party with a name other than Nepal Communist Party at the Election Commission fulfilling all its conditions.’
In the past two months, the Oli and Dahal factions had been lobbying hard with the Election Commission to be given the party name and the elections symbol (Sun). The Election Commission had not yet recognised that the party was formally split.
The two factions had also engaged in a show of strength in the streets with huge rallies to impress the Supreme Court that the House dissolution was unconstitutional. While the apex court agreed with that decision, it has now ruled that neither party has a claim to the name Nepal Communist Party and has effectively reinstated the previous parties before unification.