Nepali Congress & CPN-UML strike deal to oust PM 'Prachanda'; to form new alliance

Embattled Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' has decided not to resign from the post despite an agreement reached between the country's largest parties -- Nepali Congress and CPN-UML -- to form a new coalition government.
Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda'
Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda'

Kathmandu | In a dramatic development, politically fragile Nepal's two largest parties have inked a midnight power-sharing deal to form a new government to replace the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', who on Tuesday refused to resign and asserted that he would rather face a confidence vote.

The agreement, finalised between Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) chairman K P Sharma Oli on Monday night, outlines the ministerial division, provincial leadership roles and a rotation for the prime ministerial position.

Deuba, 78, and Oli, 72, - both former premiers - agreed to share the Prime Ministerial position on a rotation basis for the rest of the term of the Parliament, said ex-foreign minister Narayan Prakash Saud, who is a Nepali Congress central member.

Nepali Congress, the largest party in the 275-member House of Representatives, has 89 seats at present, while CPN-UML has 78 seats. Their combined strength of 167 is sufficient for a majority of 138 seats in the lower house. Prachanda's party has 32 seats.

The two leaders met on Saturday to lay the ground for a potential new political alliance between the two parties, following which Oli's CPN-UML ended its association with the Prachanda-led government barely four months after extending support to it.

The CPN-UML Tuesday urged Prime Minister 'Prachanda' to step down from the position so that a a new government can be formed as per the constitutional provision. It also asked all the political parties to join the “national government” under the leadership of Oli to bolster political stability in the country.

Embattled Prime Minister Prachanda, however, refused to step down despite the agreement between the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML.

In a meeting of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) office-bearers held in Baluwatar, Prachanda said he would rather face a vote of confidence in Parliament than resign from the post, the party Secretary Ganesh Shah told PTI.

Prachanda, 69, a former guerilla leader, has won three votes of confidence in Parliament during his one-and-a-half-year term.

Nepal has had 13 governments in the last 16 years, indicating the fragile nature of the Himalayan nation's political system.

Under the agreement, the CPN-UML chief Oli will lead the government in the first phase of the remaining term of Parliament. For the remaining term, Deuba will be the prime minister.

The two leaders tentatively agreed to form a new government, amend the Constitution, and work out a power-sharing formula, which they reportedly shared with a few confidants, media reports said, quoting multiple senior leaders from both parties.

The ministers belonging to the CPN-UML in the Prachanda-led Cabinet are likely to resign en-masse, sources close to the CPN-UML said.

CPN-UML secretary Shanker Pokharel told reporters that an agreement was reached with the Nepali Congress to form a national government led by Oli.

The new government will be formed to maintain political stability in the country and make necessary amendments to the Constitution.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ravi Lamichhane accused the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML of forming the new alliance after the Prachanda-led coalition government started opening the files of corruption cases involving political leaders.

"The new alliance is aimed at protecting corrupt leaders rather than protecting the Constitution and maintaining political stability, as claimed by some leaders,” said Lamichhane, who is also the president of Rashtriya Swatantra Party (RSP), during a press meet in Kathmandu.

He said the RSP, a key ruling coalition partner of the Prachanda-led coalition, will not join the new alliance of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML.

"We will neither resign from the coalition government nor join the new alliance," Lamichhane said.

According to the agreement reached, during Oli’s tenure, the CPN-UML will take control of ministries, including the Prime Minister's position and the Finance Ministry. Similarly, the Nepali Congress will oversee ten ministries, including the Home Ministry, MyRepublica news portal reported.

According to the agreement, the CPN-UML will lead provincial governments in Koshi, Lumbini and Karnali provinces, and the Nepali Congress will lead the provincial governments of Bagmati, Gandaki and Sudurpaschim provinces.

Oli and Deuba have also agreed to involve Madhes-based parties in leading Madhesh Province and have committed to constitutional amendments.

The draft agreement was prepared by a four-member task force, The Kathmandu Post newspaper reported.

It will detail the power-sharing arrangement, propose amendments to the Constitution, review the electoral system, including proportional representation, change national assembly arrangements, and discuss the size of provincial assemblies, according to a task force member.

Meanwhile, the talks between Prime Minister Prachanda and CPN-UML chief Oli to save the current coalition also failed, according to Maoist sources.

Quoting Prachanda, CPM-Maoist Centre Secretary Ganesh Shah said a conspiracy has been hatched to topple the coalition government and create instability in the country.

According to the constitutional provision, the prime minister will have 30 days to seek a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives, which would give Prachanda some time for political manoeuvring.

Differences between Oli and Prime Minister Prachanda had been steadily building, and Oli was unhappy with the recent budget allocations made by the government for the fiscal year 2024-25, which he had publicly spoken about.

Worried by the closed-door meeting between Deuba and Oli, Prachanda had gone to meet Oli to assure that the government is serious about addressing issues raised by CPN-UML, including its concern about the new budget, observers said.

During their meeting on Monday morning, Oli reportedly requested Prachanda to support him by stepping down, the report said.

Prachanda offered Oli the post of prime minister within the current ruling coalition, which the latter turned down, expressing his desire to lead a consensus government, a CPN-UML leader was quoted as saying.

Prachanda won three votes of confidence in Parliament during his one-and-a-half-year term.

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