Ruling party rift overshadows political stability of Nepal

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By Long Xingchun Source: Global Times

Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli File photo: Xinhua

Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Sunday dissolved parliament at the request of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s cabinet and announced that general elections would be held in April and May 2021(over a year ahead of schedule), according to media reports.

The Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the country’s ruling party, is currently embroiled in an intra-party feud. The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) (CPN-UML) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) announced their unification in 2018. Oli and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal both serve as the chairmen. Since their respective parties merged, power-sharing between Oli and Dahal remains a key issue with several accords ultimately failing to find a resolution.

There have been several clashes between the two leaders. These internal disputes seem unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. The two chairmen refuse to budge. It was reported in July that Dahal and a majority of the secretariat and standing committee members demanded Oli’s resignation as prime minister and chairman, citing his incapability. Oli flatly refused.

Against this backdrop, in order to avoid any unfavorable conditions, Oli decided to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections. As President Bhandari and Oli were both members of the CPN-UML, Bhandari approved Oli’s request soon.

When CPN-UML and the CPN Maoist Centre merged, both Nepal and the international community expected that Nepal would usher a period of political stability. Previously, Nepal’s frequent changes in government gravely impaired the country’s social stability and economic growth. Unfortunately, the country may fall into political instability once again only after just two years.

The results show that the merger of Nepal’s two communist parties has not yet been fully realized. Forces led by Oli and Dahal may split the current communist party into two parties. This is unfavorable to the country’s political stability and the communist party overall. A third party, such as the Nepali Congress, a social-democratic political party in Nepal, may benefit from this chaos.

The dissolution of parliament may cause great turmoil too. Elections will be held in the first half of 2021, and the result will be highly uncertain. If the NCP splits, votes from different forces will become very scattered. Nepalese politics may backslide into a former state of uncertainty and instability.

No party in the country will be able to obtain over half of the seats in parliament. A coalition government will emerge, like before, which will lead to an uneven distribution of interests. Defection could occur any time, resulting in a short-lived government.

When Hindustan Times newspaper covered this news, it tried hard to connect the situation with China, noting that this situation “also hurts China”. It also accused China of interfering in Nepal’s domestic affairs and with the Communist Party’s internal disputes.

The publication seems to have a long-term tactic to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian countries. China does not interfere in Nepal’s domestic affairs – or any country’s for that matter.

Of course, China hopes Nepal can have a stable government which does not change too frequently so that everyone benefits. This also includes China-Nepal ties.

Actually, China has no preference about who the ruling party is, but only hopes that Nepal has a stable government. China has not aided, coerced, or imposed pressure on any ruling party of Nepal. It is India that has pressured Nepal, including implementing a blockade. The coordinative role played by China should not be viewed as interference in Nepal’s internal politics. The accusations from the Indian side are groundless.

The Indian media often provoke China-Nepal relations, but this will not send big waves. Politicians in Nepal well understand the importance of cooperating with China. The wedge-driving maneuvers by some Indian media are bound to fail.

The author is a senior research fellow with the Academy of Regional and Global Governance at the Beijing Foreign Studies University and president of the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs. [email protected]

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