PM Oli races to get new anti-graft watchdog boss, heads for a showdown with Prachanda
Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the ruling party’s rival faction led by Pushpa Kumar Dahal aka Prachanda appears headed for a showdown this week over the possible appointment of former home secretary Prem Kumar Rai as the next chief of the Himalayan nation’s top anti-graft watchdog.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Tuesday afternoon signed off on an executive order to reduce the quorum for meetings of the prime minister-headed Constitutional Council that is empowered to appoint officials of constitutional bodies such as the powerful Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.
The ordinance was issued hours after speaker of the House of Representatives Agni Sapkota skipped the council’s meeting, forcing PM Oli to reschedule it to later in the evening. “The speaker could not attend the Constitutional Council meeting because there was a lack of preparations and homework… Also there was no coordination on the part of the [council] chairman,” Sapkota’s press advisor Shreedhar Neupane said, according to the Kathmandu Post.
Once the ordinance that brings down the quorum of the six-member council to four was issued, PM Oli convened the council’s meeting again on Tuesday evening.
Apart from PM Oli, the other members of the council are chief justice, speaker, deputy speaker, chair of the National Assembly and the leader of the opposition. The deputy speaker’s post is vacant.
“Today’s meeting of the Constitutional Council has discussed the appointments to various vacant constitutional commissions,” National Assembly chairperson Ganesh Prasad Timilsina said after the meeting, according to Nepali website Kantipur. He did not elaborate.
Nepal watchers said PM Oli is keen to get the council to appoint former home secretary Prem Kumar Rai to head the powerful Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority as its chief commissioner. The commission is mandated by the Constitution to investigate persons holding public office and their associates for corruption.
Leaders of Prachanda’s faction within the ruling party underline that any appointment by the Oli-led government before holding consultations with the Prachanda faction would be a violation of the peace pact between PM Oli and Prachanda.
One of the conditions to let PM Oli continue as the NCP chairperson and the prime minister was that he would consult the party leadership before a policy decision or a key appointment.
PM Oli’s rivals suspect that the prime minister would like the anti-graft commission to probe Prachanda and his associates who have been piling pressure on him to step down.
The NCP was formed in 2018 with the merger of the PM Oli -fronted Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and the Prachanda-led Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). The honeymoon, however, did not last long and the merged entity which came to power, the NCP, has been staring at a split for months.
PM Oli’s rushed effort to get the anti-graft watchdog chief’s appointment through comes right ahead of the meeting of the communist party’s standing committee where Prachanda and his associates including former prime minister Madhav Nepal are expected to ramp up pressure on PM Oli to quit and go ahead with key appointments only after consulting them.