Local elections offered a face-saver to the UML to end the 9-month House obstruction. Now, all parties need to learn a lesson

A new session of the House of Representatives begins in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
A new session of the House of Representatives begins in Kathmandu, on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

The main opposition, CPN-UML, on Tuesday ended the nine-month-long House obstruction. Speaking in the first meeting of the new session of the House of Representatives, the party leader Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said the party decided to lift the obstruction due to two main reasons: the changed political context and the need to discuss crucial national issues such as the imminent economic crisis.

Whereas Gyawali did not discuss the first reason, political analysts believe this indeed was the major factor that forced the party to lift the House obstruction. Whereas the party’s continuous obstruction did not have any impact on the business of the House with the legislative body making crucial decisions such as endorsing the controversial MCC grant deal, the UML might have already realised that its efforts are going in vain and nobody is going to paying heed. In fact, it was just searching for a face-saver to lift the obstruction.

And, the party got this opportunity in the recent local election results. Although all the results have not become published, it is already clear that the UML is going to lose the status of the biggest party at the local level.

While the decision to lift the obstruction is good, a more important question is if the UML and other parties learnt any lesson from its role in the record long House obstruction in Nepal’s parliamentary history, according to observers.

Calculating profit and loss

House obstruction: House of Representatives has been obstructed by UML leaders in September 2021.
File: House of Representatives has been obstructed by UML leaders in September 2021.

The UML had been obstructing the parliament, accusing the speaker of discriminating against the party as he did not remove 14 lawmakers the party had taken action against, in August 2021. The lawmakers led by Madhav Kumar Nepal later formed the new CPN-Unified Socialist, but the UML had been claiming the party was illegal.

Gyawali, in his address, did not discuss what the party gained and lost from the House obstruction. He did not bother to find out if the obstruction made any good to the party, the parliament and the country.

But, Som Bahadur Thapa, a former official of the Federal Parliament Secretariat, says the ‘record feat’ could turn costly for the party. Yet, he hopes, it is good if the party learns any lesson from it and accepts its act was wrong.

“If that is the case, we have to thank the party.”

Thapa believes the relatively poor performance of the party in the recent local elections might also be a result of the wrong act of House obstruction. “To win the elections and get power, the votes from the cadres are not enough. You also need votes from neutral voters,” Thapa says, “Maybe, the UML lost votes from such neutral voters due to the House obstruction.”

He believes such neutral voters were detached from the UML as the party continued House obstruction during the third wave of the Covid pandemic although it could have played a constructive role in helping the government deal with the crisis.

Therefore, calculating the potential risk the continuous obstruction might result in ahead of the parliamentary elections expected to be held in December this year, the party decided to end this, surmises Thapa.

The right face-saver

Vote count is underway in Kathmandu after local elections, in Kathmandu, in May 2022.
Vote count is underway in Kathmandu after local elections, in Kathmandu, in May 2022.

Veteran political analyst Lok Raj Baraj says the recent local elections offered the UML the right opportunity to learn a lesson.

“Although you cannot be certain that it ended the House obstruction just because of the election results,” Baral says, “It appears the party has learnt a lesson about the possible impact of obstructing the House on election results.”

From September 8, 2021, until the last House session got prorogued on March 15, 2022, the UML obstructed each meeting of the House of Representatives, protesting the role of the speaker in splitting the party.

But, nine months on, it did not make any impact. “The party broke all records of House obstruction in Nepal,” political analyst Bishnu Dahal says, “But, it was not successful. Hence, it ended the obstruction without any condition.”

Before this obstruction, the longest House obstruction in Nepal’s parliamentary history was of 58 days (around two months), this too from the UML’s side.

Repeating this, the party appeared irresponsible to the legislative system this time also, says Baral. “Its behaviours questioned the entire parliamentary system,” he says, “But, let’s not talk about the past for the party has realised it was wrong.”

“Now, the party got an excuse from the elections and also learnt a lesson from it.”

A lesson to all

Baral believes this incident shall teach the same lesson to all politicians.

The UML has also filed a case against the speaker and the newly formed CPN-Unified Socialist at the Supreme Court. Whereas there is a law that no one can raise questions about anything sub-judice at the court in parliament, the UML vehemently disrespected it.

“But, this proved detrimental to the party itself,” Baral says, “Don’t you think other political parties have to learn a lesson from this?”

Another political analyst Bishnu Dahal agrees.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length. 

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Bajagain is a sub-editor at Onlinekhabar, looking into parliamentary and judicial issues.

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