Sher Bahadur Deuba, the president of the Nepali Congress, has been appointed as the country’s new prime minister. The 75-year-old will lead the country’s executive for the fifth time.
Deuba was appointed prime minister after a court ruled on Monday that former Prime Minister KP Oli’s move to dissolve parliament was “unconstitutional” and issued a mandamus order in the name of the President to appoint him as prime minister within two days.
Deuba will take over the presidency at a critical juncture in the country’s history. With the court’s decision, the country has avoided what many commentators have dubbed a “constitutional crisis” caused by the dissolution of the lower house. Meanwhile, the country is still struggling to recover from the pandemic’s second wave.
The opposition alliance, which includes the Nepali Congress, a faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal, and the CPN Maoist Center, has named Deuba as their leader who will serve as Prime Minister. (As a result of the Court’s decision, the Madhav Nepal faction of the CPN UML has left the alliance.) It should be noted that Deuba did not become Prime Minister as a result of a public mandate. Deuba is also not a politician who instills trust in the public. His four stints as PM prior to the upcoming one had few positive highlights.
When Oli began to subvert the constitution and show increasingly authoritarian tendencies in recent months, Deuba, as the president of the main opposition party, was not seen to criticize the prime minister’s antics harshly. As Deuba prepares to lead the government, questions about his capacity and performance have arisen. Many regard him as a leader who repeatedly attains power but fails to leave an impression.
The public is not optimistic about Deuba’s history and track record as PM. It is fair to say that Deuba, who served four terms as Prime Minister from 1995 to 1997, 2001 to 2002, 2004 to 2005, and 2017 to 2018, has squandered numerous opportunities for redemption.
It remains to be seen how Deuba will distinguish his regime from KP Oli’s lackluster one.
During the Maoist insurgency, he was blamed for failing to deal with the Maoists and instead yielding to the King. On June 7, 2017, he became Prime Minister for the fourth time, and his only notable achievement was a successful election.
Given Deuba’s victory in the 2017 election, we can expect a free and fair election in the country after the current parliament’s term expires. However, given the country’s multiple crises over the years, the people expect more from him this time.
According to Congress insiders, Deuba is eager to hold the Parliamentary election because he sees the Court’s decision as an opportunity to win the elections using anti-Oli sentiment as their main weapon.
But it remains to be seen how Deuba will distinguish his regime from KP Oli’s lackluster one.
For the opposition alliance and their leaders, this could be a happy hour. This could also be a historic chance for Sher Bahadur Deuba to prove himself. It may be premature to speculate on how a Deuba government would operate. After all, Deuba will have to gain the confidence of the House within 30 days of his appointment. It will be interesting to see how parliamentary politics play out in the coming days. In Nepali politics, a month is a long time.
Political analyst Geja Sharma Wagle described this as a “golden” opportunity for PM Deuba because the outgoing KP Oli-led government was ineffective as an executive body. “PM Deuba should learn from KP Oli’s mistakes and work in accordance with the true spirit of the constitution,” he said.
This government, he believes, should be accountable to the people. It should strike a balance between diplomacy and improving relations with other countries. Only then will this government be distinguished from the previous KP Oli-led administration.
He is optimistic, however, following the first cabinet meeting’s decision on pandemic control and vaccines. “It’s a good beginning,” he said.