The Nepalese Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a fresh blow to embattled Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli by removing 20 recently appointed ministers, pending a ruling on whether a minority prime minister can make such sweeping Cabinet changes.
“This is an interim order and the court will give its final verdict later,” court official Bhadrakali Pokharel said yesterday, a day after the decision by a two-judge bench.
With the Himalayan nation struggling to contain a deadly second wave of COVID-19 infections and beset by political turmoil, Oli lost a vote of confidence last month as a result of factional infighting within his Communist Party of Nepal.
Oli dissolved parliament and ordered fresh elections for November, while staying on as minority prime minister until the elections are held.
The Supreme Court yesterday was set to begin hearing dozens of petitions challenging Oli’s dissolution of parliament.
In a bid to hold onto power and ditch opponents within his own party, Oli earlier this month dropped most ministers from his Cabinet and named 20 replacements, who were mainly members of a junior coalition partner.
The ministerial appointments had been “against the spirit of the constitution,” the Supreme Court judges said, as Oli was only a minority prime minister.
The court’s removal of the 20 ministers means the Cabinet is left with just five members, including the prime minister.
“The prime minister had completely disregarded the constitution in making the appointments ... the court has applied a brake to this,” petitioner Dinesh Tripathi said.
There was no immediate comment from Oli, but his aide, Rajan Bhattarai, said the government would comply with the court order, although he described it as “politically incorrect.”
While Nepalese politicians are locked in a power struggle, COVID-19 continues to spread, with levels of testing and vaccination both woefully inadequate.
However, official data suggest that the second wave probably peaked last month.
On Tuesday, 3,703 new COVID-19 infections were reported, compared with a daily peak of 9,305 on May 12.
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