Kathmandu, Oct. 5: A day after he was sacked as Nepal’s Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba today slammed King Gyanendra’s move as “unconstitutional and undemocratic”.
“An elected Prime Minister can only be replaced by the parliament,” Deuba said.
Sources, however, said Deuba knew the dismissal was coming as he was asked to step down earlier in the day, but had refused. Today, he sought support from other parties in what is increasingly looking like a showdown with the monarchy.
“According to the wishes of the political parties, I recommended the extension of election,” Deuba said after an informal discussion with leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepal Sadbhavana Party. “Now they should stand behind me.”
Deuba’s ouster came a day after he recommended postponing parliamentary elections by more than a year. In a nationally televised address, the king announced he was relieving Deuba “owing to his incompetence to conduct the general elections on the stipulated date”.
The king put off the November polls, which Deuba had ordered when he dissolved the lower House on May 22. He further announced that a new government would be formed within five days consisting of “persons who have clean images and who will not be participating in the forthcoming general elections”.
Deuba had dissolved the parliament following differences within the ruling Nepali Congress over extending the state of emergency to combat the Maoist insurgency. The dissolution led to a vertical split in the country’s oldest political party, with Deuba forming a separate outfit. Despite widespread reservations, the government had proclaimed it would be able to hold elections for a new parliament.
But after two devastating attacks by the Maoists in early September on army and police installations, many parties, including the main opposition, CPN (UM-L), which was counting on benefiting from the division in the Nepali Congress, began voicing concerns about the viability of holding elections.
Events precipitated after an all-party meeting on September 29 gave a mandate to the Prime Minister to either defer the election or reinstate the parliament.
Despite strong reservations of some of his colleagues, Deuba managed to get Cabinet approval for the deferment.
It is still not clear if Deuba will get the backing that he is looking for. He did not specify what transpired during his meeting with the CPN (UM-L) and the Nepal Sadbhavana Party. He plans to meet leaders of all the political parties tomorrow.
The Maoists, on their part, have denounced the royal action as a “final assault against the gains of the 1990 movement”.
Constitutional experts say Deuba’s removal was unconstitutional although Article 127 of the Constitution, which the king invoked, allows the king to issue “necessary orders” to “remove such difficulty” that may arise in the implementation of the Constitution. They say that in the application of Article 127, the king, too, needs to follow the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
But while political parties and constitutional experts debate the legal nuances, there was evidence on the street that the king’s action had infused a sense of expectation, especially in view of the commitment expressed by him towards multiparty democracy in his address.
Several organisations that have been advocating direct rule by the king took out processions supporting the king. Similar rallies were reported from many parts of the country while there were spontaneous celebrations as well.
In Kathmandu’s main shopping centre, New Road, a group of young men were lit oil lamps in the evening. They were just “ordinary citizens”, they said, and were celebrating because they were “disillusioned with politics”.