Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda on Tuesday won the vote of confidence in the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament.
Prachanda received over two-third majority votes (268) in the 275-member strong lower house. He needed 138 votes to win the House confidence.
In a rare show in Nepali politics, Prachanda was backed by all major political forces including the Nepali Congress, the largest party in parliament. The Congress party led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, which was supposed to stay in opposition, also voted for Prachanda.
Addressing the House, Deuba told lawmakers that his party will be in opposition but will not be a part of the Prachanda-led government. “We will support or oppose the government on the basis of merits,” Deuba said.
In line with the constitutional provisions, the newly-appointed prime minister must win the vote of confidence from the House of Representatives within 30 days after the date of appointment.
Senior-most member of parliament Pashupati Shumshere Rana announced that the new prime minister won the vote of confidence by getting more than two-thirds majority.
“I hereby declare that PM Prachanda has won the vote of confidence in parliament with more than two-thirds majority,” Rana said.
With Prachanda securing the vote of confidence, he is set to remain in power for two and half years as per the understanding reached between the partners in the seven-party ruling alliance.
Even as Prime Minister Prachanda won the vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday, but his key challenges will be negotiating the political demands of a shaky coalition, analysts said.
Prachanda was appointed the country’s prime minister on December 25. Even as Prachanda’s party went into November 20 polls in alliance with the Congress and three other parties, he switched to the UML-led bloc after the Congress President and then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba refused his bid to become the prime minister in the first two-and-half years. Immediately after elections, Deuba and Prachanda had reached a tacit understanding to lead the new government on a rotational basis.
In today’s vote of confidence, Prachanda was backed by the parties in the ruling coalition including the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), pro-monarchy Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), and three Terai-centric parties Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP), Janamat Party (JP) and the Nagarik Unmukti Party (NUP).
“The prime minister achieved two thirds majority in parliament with the backing of the seven-party ruling alliance and the Nepali Congress. However, he will face several challenges in the days ahead. The major challenge for him will be to negotiate the demands of a shaky coalition,” Sitaram Baral, a Kathmandu-based political analyst, told India Narrative on Tuesday.
Baral said that the survival of the government is largely dependent on how Prachanda and Dahal run the ruling alliance smoothly by maintaining their camaraderie in the days ahead.
“Oli will maintain grip on every big issue even as Prachanda is the executive head. This may irk Prachanda. In that case, the ruling alliance will collapse leading to the fall of Prachanda as the prime minister. I don’t see such a threat to Prachanda at least for now,” he added.
Oli-Prachanda: Bitter recent past
Analysts said that this is a temporary coalition and may fall at any time since Prachanda and Oli lack the required level of trust to run the ruling coalition.
Until 2021 March, Prachanda and Oli were co-chairs of the unified Nepal Communist Party (NCP). However, their personal mistrust led to the division of the party into two and the fall of the Oli as the prime minister in June 2021.
They traded barbs over several issues including the collapse of the NCP triggered by factional feud and Oli’s act of dissolving parliament twice in December 2020 and April 2021, suggesting that the coalition government of communist parties can’t sustain long in Nepal due to factional feud. Now, the friends-turned-foes are friends again and Oli has become kingmaker to prop Prachanda as the prime minister.
Another key challenge for Prachanda is to share the country’s plum posts including the president, speaker of parliament and ministerial portfolios.
According to leaders in the new dispensation, Oli’s UML has staked the claim for posts of the president and speaker. Other partners including Lingden-led RPP in the alliance are also lobbying for the post of speaker.
As per the power-sharing deal, Prachanda will have to accept Oli as his successor in the next two and half years. It is yet to be seen whether the duo will adhere to the gentleman understanding that they sealed while making Prachanda as the prime minister a month ago.
Apart from political challenges, the new government has also challenges on the economic and foreign policy fronts. Increasing trade deficit, depleting foreign exchange reserves and skyrocketing inflation are badly affecting the $40 billion South Asian economy.
Reports say, the country’s inflation stands at more than 8 percent, this is the highest in six years. Regaining the trust of foreign investors and boosting domestic production are other challenges associated with the economy.
Nepal wants good relations with India: Prachanda
Prime Minister Prachanda has also a challenge to maintain a balanced relationship with immediate neighbors India and China as well as the United States.
In a recent interview with ABP News, Prachanda said he would strive for balanced foreign relations with neighbours India and China.
He vowed to strengthen Nepal’s relations with India. “We want good relations with India,” he said. “I am not against India, will forget the old disputes and move forward,” said Prachanda.
He mentioned the Indian Prime Minister’s congratulatory message to him after his appointment as the prime minister. “PM Narendra Modi tweeted his best wishes and talked about further strengthening the relations between India and Nepal. PM Modi is the first Prime Minister who congratulated me,” he said.
(Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal correspondent based in Kathmandu)