In Nepal, tens of thousands of people demonstrated again against Prime Minister Oli. He wants to end an internal power struggle in the ruling Communist Party through early elections.
By Bernd Musch-Borowska, ARD Studio New Delhi
The New Year started with political unrest in Nepal. Tens of thousands took to the streets again at the turn of the year to demonstrate against Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, who wanted to end an internal power struggle in the ruling Communist Party of Nepal with new elections next spring.
On the recommendation of the Prime Minister, Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari dissolved parliament shortly before Christmas and scheduled early parliamentary elections for the end of April – more than a year before the regular election date.
The ruling party is split
The demonstrators on the streets of Kathmandu see this as a violation of the constitution. They are calling for Oli’s resignation and the reinstatement of the dissolved parliament. “Tens of thousands are taking to the streets here to protest this unconstitutional decision by the Prime Minister,” said protester Laxman Lamsal. And that’s just the beginning. “If our demands are not met, the protests will go on and get bigger.”
The protests are led by supporters of the former Maoist rebels, who have so far formed the ruling party together with Oli. Three years ago Oli had won the parliamentary elections through the amalgamation of several communist groups into one party and had become head of government.
But there had recently been tensions between Oli and the head of the former Maoist rebels. They had agreed to split the five-year term as head of government. Oli refused to give up the office.
Allegations against the head of government
The opposition is also outraged by the dissolution of parliament. It is feared that there will not be enough time for the election campaign and voter registration before the early elections. “This move by the government is against the constitution and against the interests of the country and the people as a whole,” said Amresh Kumar Singh, an MP for the opposition Nepalese Congress Party.
Prime Minister Oli had been under pressure for a while. Critics accuse him of corruption and that he has not taken sufficient measures against the corona pandemic. More than 260,000 cases have so far been registered in the former kingdom in the Himalayas. Around 1,850 people have died in connection with Covid 19 disease.
Beijing fears for its influence
The two rival regional powers India and China are watching the political unrest in their neighboring country Nepal with concern. The government in Beijing apparently fears that political instability will cause it to lose its influence in Kathmandu, which had been strengthened since the election of the Communist Party of Nepal three years ago.
A high-ranking Chinese delegation came to the capital at the end of the year. It was about strengthening bilateral cooperation, said the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, in a press briefing: “The Chinese delegation met with the Nepalese leadership to discuss common interests.” Among other things, it was about “party discipline and economic cooperation within the Belt and Road Initiative”.
China’s President Xi Jinping, who made a state visit to Nepal last year, sees Prime Minister Oli as an ally. A new prime minister may be more leaning towards rival India.