KATHMANDU – Nepal witnessed on Monday protests and multiple arrests a day after the allegedly “unconstitutional” dissolution of the parliament, a measure which is set to result in snap elections being held over a year ahead of schedule in April and May.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari had dissolved on Sunday the parliament at the request of the cabinet led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, a step that has been challenged in the Supreme Court and termed unconstitutional by the opposition and rights activists.
Protests were held in at least 10 places across the country, including Kathmandu, Nepal Police spokesperson Basanta Bahadur Kunwar told EFE, adding that they had “arrested dozens of demonstrators who were protesting at a prohibited area.”
The detainees include the chairperson of the Human Rights and Peace Society Uttam Pudasaini and civil society leaders and noted activists Krishna Pahadi and Krishna Kandel.
The rights activists claimed that the parliament dissolution was the greatest “contempt of democracy.”
Meanwhile, the top court of the country received 13 petitions against the government order between Sunday and Monday, out of which 11 have been admitted, court spokesperson Bhadrakali Pokharel told EFE.
The decision to dissolve the parliament comes on the back of a growing dispute between two factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, formed in 2018 after the merger of Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), led by former guerrilla commander Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
The two parties came to power as an alliance in February 2018 after a landslide victory in general elections and in May that year announced a formal merger with Marxism-Leninism as the guiding ideology of the new formation.
The friction between the two sides appeared last year when Dahal demanded a power-sharing system, and sources inside the formation told EFE that the party had now been preparing to oust Oli.
All ministers belonging to the Dahal faction had resigned from their posts late on Sunday, hours after the president followed Oli’s recommendation to dissolve the House of Representatives.
However, the prime minister defended the decision on Monday in an address to the nation.
“The elected government was pushed to a corner and was not allowed to work. So I decided to dissolve the parliament,” Oli said in a reference to the alleged obstruction by leaders of his own party.
“Nobody had thought that the country would go for a fresh mandate one and half years before elections were due but it was a compulsion. It’s the best democratic alternative,” he insisted.
Nepal had approved its current constitution in 2015 amid a severe political crisis, and the election of the current parliament in 2018 was the final step in a prolonged transition to democracy that began in 2008 with the end of the monarchy, two years after the end of the civil war between the government and Maoist rebels.