KATHMANDU, Nepal – The Supreme Court of Nepal ruled on Tuesday that the country’s parliament, dissolved in December by the country’s prime minister, must be reconvened, pushing the Himalayan nation into a new wave of political instability.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of Nepal dissolved Parliament on December 20 following protracted internal strife within his ruling Nepalese Communist Party, but the court found he had exceeded his powers.
“The court called the dissolution of the house an unconstitutional act,” court spokesman Bhadrakali Pokharel said, adding that the legislature should be re-established within two weeks.
The ruling means Mr Oli will likely face a motion of no-confidence when lawmakers meet again.
Rajan Bhattarai, foreign affairs adviser to Mr Oli, said the prime minister would respect the court order. “He won’t weigh any undemocratic gesture like imposing an emergency or whatever,” he said.
Mr Oli dissolved parliament about two years before the end of his five-year term in order to avoid a vote of no confidence expected by rival leaders of his party.
Mr. Oli was elected to a second stint as prime minister in 2017 by forming a majority in an alliance with former Maoist rebels and vowing to tackle the endemic corruption plaguing the country and forge stronger ties with China.
The political unrest in Nepal comes amid growing tensions between China and India, two powerful neighbors whose rivalry is increasingly tense. This has intensified as China claims against disputed land along their rugged border in the Himalayas.
During his tenure, Mr. Oli has leaned more and more towards China, at the expense of India.
Mr Oli has launched several large development projects as part of China’s efforts to expand trade and transit ties in the region, essentially ending what had been an Indian monopoly in the country.
“Oli’s exit could be a matter of satisfaction for India,” said Bipin Adhikari, former dean of the Faculty of Law at Kathmandu University and constitutional expert. A “weak coalition government could support them more than Oli”.
Mr Oli has lost his grip on the party and Parliament in recent days. The dissolution split the ruling party into two factions, the group opposing Mr. Oli and his decision to dissolve the parliament led by a former Maoist rebel, Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Lawyers and political activists gathered outside the Supreme Court in Kathmandu to celebrate the ruling on Tuesday. Mr Oli’s decision to dissolve parliament has been widely condemned by many members of his own party and the opposition.
A senior Nepalese Communist Party leader Raghuji Pant called on Mr. Oli to resign.
“For moral reasons, the prime minister should resign immediately,” Pant said. “Our party can remain intact if the prime minister agrees to support another leader as prime minister. Otherwise, a new power equation is inevitable. “