Nepal president’s call for new govt sparks constitutional controversy again

Kathmandu, May 21

President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s Office issued a notice on its website at 07:56 pm on Thursday, calling parties in the House of Representatives to stake their claim to the position of the prime minister by 5 pm on Friday.

The notice explains PM KP Sharma Oli wanted to clear decks for the formation of the new government after concluding that there was not an environment to receive the vote of confidence in his government.

This has once against sparked controversy about the constitutionality of the prime minister’s move and the president’s endorsement of it.

Oli, who was appointed a minority prime minister as per article 76.3 of the constitution on May 13 should have sought a vote of confidence in the House in the next month as per article 76.4. But, Oli, without attempting the vote of confidence, decided to recommend for the new majority government as per article 76.5 of the constitution.

Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya says this is unconstitutional because the constitution does not allow the president to begin the new round of government formation without completing an already initiated round. According to him, to enable the president to call for the new government, either the PM should have lost the House’s vote of confidence or he should have resigned.

Senior advocate Radheshyam Adhikari, who is also a member of the main opposition Nepali Congress, agrees with Acharya and says the president should have asked the PM to resign when he recommended the call for the new government. But, instead of doing so, the president also endorsed the PM’s unconstitutional move, according to him.

The main opposition party’s senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel suspects the PM and the president are doing the groundwork for dissolving the House again. He says that is why they gave only 21 hours (until 5 pm on Friday) to stake the claim.

In the past, the parties would get a 72 hours’ period to present their claim for the premiership.

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