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Oli once more

Thursday, February 15th, 2018
Pic: Bikram Rai

Pic: Bikram Rai

UML Chair KP Oli was sworn in as Nepal’s new Prime Minister on Thursday.

He will now have to prove his majority in the federal parliament within 30 days, which will be a cakewalk because he is backed by CPN (Maoist-Centre) in the Left Alliance.

Even though UML emerged as the largest party in the parliamentary-provincial polls two months ago, Oli’s entry into Baluwatar was delayed because the Election Commission published the results only after the Upper House elections.

Oli himself was busy negotiating with Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal about terms and conditions of the proposed unification between their parties. Dahal wanted to be the head of the unified party if he were to support Oli as the new PM.

This week, Oli and Dahal intensified negotiations and finally reached a power-sharing deal: both leaders will be the co-chairs of their unified Nepal Communist Party. They also agreed to unify their parties before forming the government.

But Oli hastily reached Shital Niwas on Thursday morning, officially informing President Bidya Bhandari that the Maoist-Centre backs his candidacy. The President then appointed him as the new PM immediately after caretaker PM Sher Bahadur Deuba resigned.

Oli was named by the UML as its parliamentary party leader only after he was appointed PM. His inauguration was so hurried that the two leaders still need to sort out differences, and clear confusion.

Maoists claim that the deal also requires Oli to resign and support Dahal as the new PM after two and a half years, but UML leaders have remained silent about it. So even if the country’s two largest communist parties eventually merge, cracks could appear within the ruling coalition midway through Oli’s tenture.

This is the second time Oli has become PM in his four-decade-long political career, which began in the 1960s as a revolutionary inspired by India’s bloody Naxalite movement.

When he became PM for the first time in 2015, the country was facing a humanitarian crisis because of the Indian Blockade. New Delhi was overtly putting pressure on Kathmandu to amend the new Constitution. But Oli did not capitulate to New Delhi, and he instead signed a trade and transit treaty with Beijing.

Oli’s nationalist stance during the blockade increased his popularity, and people gave a near two-third majority to the Left Alliance. As India found no way to stop him from becoming the new PM, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as his special envoy to mend fences.

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