A wrong history has been repeated when the government sent an ordinance about splitting parties to the president evading the House today.
The then prime minister KP Sharma Oli had first tried the ignominious option on April 20, 2020 to engineer a split in Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) even as his party had almost a two-third majority in the House. He eventually took the ordinance back along with that about the Constitutional Council following widespread condemnation within his own party and without, and after FSFN hastily unified with Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) to stop the split that Oli had plotted.
Oli again brought the two ordinances eight months later on December 15, 2020 to split ruling CPN if needed after Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal allied to put him in minority and then continued appointments at constitutional bodies against the spirit of Constitution.
He had brought the ordinance about splitting parties first to split FSFN and then to split his own party, and that about the Constitutional Council on both the occasions to curtail representation of opposition in constitutional bodies.
Sher Bahadur Deuba has now given Oli a taste of his own medicine pushing CPN-UML on the verge of split. Deuba would not have even dared to bring the ordinance had Oli not done so last year. Oli would have moral grounds to oppose that even if Deuba had. Oli's acolytes who defended the ordinances last year or did not oppose them also do not have the right to oppose the ordinance brought by Deuba.
Those who had opposed the ordinances brought by Oli then have every right to oppose this ordinance now. And they must oppose this undemocratic step with determination. There should be no doubt that the axe Deuba has today taken to the House will not just hurt Oli but our democracy. It will ultimately undermine democracy.
Parties are agents of democracy and democracy becomes weak if the agents become weak. Repeated disputes and splits in parties erode democracy. Frustrate the people. Inspire the anti-democratic forces and those who want to wind the clock back.
The ordinance about splitting parties brought by Oli last year and Deuba now has undone the democratic reforms we started. This is unpardonable attack on democracy by both of them. There is a long background to the legal provision we now have about splitting parties. Nepali Congress (NC) nearly split during the first term of the House after restoration of democracy in 1990. There was a wave of splits in parties including UML, the then largest party in the House, during the second term. The then third largest party RPP split repeatedly. Horse trading of lawmakers and holding them hostage in hotels inside and outside the country started then. That instilled aversion toward the parliamentary system in the people.
The situation worsened after the Jana Andolan II. The three Madhes-based parties elected to the First Constituent Assembly (CA) with a big mandate splintered into 18. There were over two dozen parties in the CA due to the proportional representation (PR) electoral system. Leaders of those small parties sold the PR seats to the highest bidders.
There was a strong demand and intense pressure from the public, the media and even inside big political parties to stop this wrong practice. We made two corrections in the law after the Constitution was promulgated in 2015.
The first is that a party must get at least three percent of PR votes, and win at least one seat in the first past the post electoral system (FPTP) to become a national party and to be eligible to get PR seats in the House. That limited the number of recognized national parties in the House to five even though it was 25 in the CA.
We also made another improvement in the act about political parties. The act earlier had the provision allowing split of political parties with support of 40 percent in the central committee or the parliamentary party. That was amended to make it require support of 40 percent in both the parliamentary party and the central committee to split any political party.
This stopped the practice of winning the election on ticket of a party and later splitting the party by taking a fat sum or to become minister. No party has split in the current House after the provision came into force. CPN split into CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) on order of the Supreme Court.
This ordinance brought by Deuba, however, has paved the way for UML to split. He has brought the ordinance allowing split of political parties with support of 20 percent in the central committee or the parliamentary party to serve his interest.
Oli can oopt for revenge if he again comes to power in the future and bring an ordinance allowing split of political parties with support of just 10 percent in the central committee or the parliamentary party to engineer a split in NC or another party.
Deuba, who has been linked with almost all the wrong political practices since restoration of democracy in 1990 if he has not initiated those practices, will not have moral right to protest then like Oli now.