Kathmandu, Nepal: As the Himalayan country battled political turbulence alongside the coronavirus pandemic, Nepal’s parliament was dissolved for the second time in five months on Saturday, and new elections were set for November.
After declaring that neither Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli nor Sher Bahadur Deuba, head of the opposition Nepali Congress, had a majority to form a new government, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari issued the decree.
As the country confronts a major coronavirus outbreak with acute shortages of oxygen and vaccines, political conflicts between the communist prime leader and his former Maoist supporters have reached a new high.
Authorities have reported roughly 200 deaths each day, but experts estimate there are many more, and the UN has issued an emergency Covid-19 appeal, claiming Nepal is “near breaking point.”
After a further breakdown in talks, Bhandari dissolved parliament in the early hours of Saturday.
“The president… has dissolved the current House of Representatives and fixed the first phase of general elections on November 12 and the second phase on November 19,” his office said in a statement.
Oli was only re-elected Prime Minister last week when no other candidate could gather a majority after the veteran communist lost a confidence vote.
The 69-year-old had a month to win a new vote of confidence in parliament, but when Oli struggled to gain support, the president called on other parties to try to form a government.
Bhandari, who is a member of the ruling party and is close to Oli, has been chastised for consenting to a new election so swiftly after Oli’s request.
Chandrakanta Gyawali, a constitutional expert, said the president has “derailed from the spirit of the constitution” by giving in to Oli so easily.
“This decision could be challenged in the court again. The prime minister has repeatedly attacked the constitution,” Gyawali said.
Oli dissolved parliament and ordered elections in December, blaming members of his Nepal Communist Party of obstructing his plans.
The Supreme Court reinstalled parliament after nearly two months of protests, ruling that Oli’s decision was illegal.
Oli became Prime Minister in 2018 after a merger between his party, the CPN-UML, and a former dissident party, the CPN-UML, gave him a two-thirds majority in parliament (Maoist Centre).
However, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal has turned against Oli once more, reigniting hostilities.