Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari has called on parties to form a new majority government by Thursday after the one headed by the embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli lost a trust vote.
The Office of the President, in a statement on Monday, said President Bhandari has decided to invite parties to form a majority government pursuant to Article 76 (2) of the Constitution of Nepal.
She has allotted the parties three days’ time, asking them to stake their claim to the government by 9:00 pm on Thursday, The Himalayan Times reported.
As per the constitutional provision, a candidate requires to submit signatures of lawmakers belonging to two or more political parties in parliament to the Office of President within the stipulated time.
The President’s announcement came shortly after Oli lost a trust vote in the House of Representatives. Oli, who decided to seek the trust of the 275-member House on his government, managed to garner only 93 votes, which fell short of 43 votes to reach the 136-mark and win the vote of confidence during a special session of the lower house.
A total of 124 members voted against the confidence motion while 15 members stayed neutral, Speaker Agni Sapkota announced on Monday. The session was attended by 232 lawmakers.
Oli, 69, lost the vote of confidence motion, days after the Nepal Communist Party Maoist Centre led by Pushpakamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ withdrew its support, reducing the government to a minority.
After Oli lost the trust vote, the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and a faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party led by Upendra Yadav urged President Bhandari to invoke Article 76 (2) of the Constitution to pave the way for the formation of a new government.
Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, Maoist Center chair Prachanda, and Yadav, one of the chairs of the Janata Samajbai Party, issued a joint statement.
“As per Article 100 (1) of the Constitution, the prime minister moved a vote of confidence motion, but lost it. The prime minister hence has been relieved of his position as per Article 100 (3). So, we call upon the President to initiate the process to form a new government under Article 76 (2),” the joint statement read.
With Oli failing the trust vote, the President needs to invoke Article 76 (2) to form a new government. It says in cases where no party has a clear majority in the House, the President shall appoint as the prime minister a member of the House who can command the majority with the support of two or more parties in the House of Representatives.
That could provide the Nepali Congress an opportunity to form a government with the backing of the Maoist Centre. But the two parties fall short of around 26 seats to form a new government, The Kathmandu Post reported.
If the House fails to form a government as per Article 76 (2) or a prime minister appointed under this provision fails to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the appointment, the President shall invoke Article 76 (3), it said.
In that case, Oli is likely to stake a claim to the government once again, the report said.
The main Opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), has already made a decision to form a government under its leadership. The CPN (Maoist Center) and the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) have so far announced support to the NC-led government.
Oli currently is the leader of a party that has the highest number of members in the House. If Oli is appointed under the Constitution, he also needs to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of the appointment.
Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Oli’s move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival ‘Prachanda’.
In February, the apex court reinstated the dissolved House, in a setback to Oli who was preparing for snap polls.
Known for his pro-China stance, Oli had earlier served as the country’s prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016 during which Kathmandu’s ties with New Delhi had strained.
Oli said in Parliament on Monday that it was “unfortunate” that a government that “tirelessly worked for the country’s development and nation-building” was being “targeted for narrow and partisan interests”.
Prominent leaders, including Deuba and Prachanda, blamed Oli for his failure to tackle the surge in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks. They said “corruption and scandals” had blocked the supply of timely delivery of vaccines from India.