Two communist parties merged with the understanding that the leaders would trade places as prime minister after 2 1/2 years. Oli, however, has been reluctant to step aside, leading to a rift in the party. On Sunday morning, dozens of ruling party lawmakers moved to file a vote of no confidence against Oli.
Defending the decision, Surya Thapa, the press adviser to the prime minister, said it was necessitated by “conspiracies” that had “restricted” his functioning. “So the PM thought the way out of instability would be to go before the public again,” he said.
The immediate trigger for the decision seemed to be an executive order passed by Oli last week that would consolidate decision-making power with him. “Developments of the last week and today are closely interrelated and reflect Oli’s quest to enjoy absolute unquestioned power,” journalist Ram Bahadur Rawal said.
Fresh parliamentary elections will be held in two phases on April 30 and May 10 — a year early — according to the president’s office. It is not clear if the two parties making up the ruling coalition will separate ahead of the contest.
A fresh election will be a costly exercise. The last election cost an estimated $475 million. Several social media users from Nepal compared the cost of holding another election with vaccinating the country against coronavirus, which is projected to cost about $670 million.
Political analyst Achyut Wagle said the dissolution of parliament is “unfortunate” and likely to plunge the country into a phase of political instability. The coming together of the two parties to form a government with a two-thirds majority three years ago had ended years of political turmoil.
Nepal, wedged between superpowers China and India, is a relatively new democracy. A decade-long Maoist civil war had ravaged the country until 2006, leaving at least 17,000 people dead. In 2008, the country became a democratic republic by abolishing the 240-year-old monarchy.
The country of 30 million is in the midst of an economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. A recent World Bank projection said the country’s economy would grow by less than 1 percent in 2021. Tourism, a mainstay of the economy, has been hit hard. The popular climbing season for Mount Everest was canceled last spring.
Masih reported from New Delhi.