Protesters dismiss the Dec. 20 decision as unconstitutional as they gather outside Prime Minister Oli’s office despite coronavirus restrictions on rallies.
Thousands of opponents of Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli marched through the streets of the capital Kathmandu, urging him to reverse his decision to dissolve parliament and call for early elections.
Defying the coronavirus assembly restrictions, protesters called Oli’s decision unconstitutional as they gathered outside his office on Tuesday.
On December 20, the office of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari announced the dissolution of Parliament at the request of Oli’s cabinet, while also anticipating the general elections now scheduled for April 30 and May 10, more than a year ahead of schedule.
Protesters chanted slogans against Oli as they marched peacefully through central Kathmandu as thousands of riot police kept a close watch.
“We are protesting against the unconstitutional decision of the Prime Minister and we will continue to protest until Parliament is restored,” said Laxman Lamsal, member of the Regional Assembly.
Oli, 68, became prime minister after his Communist Party of Nepal (NCP) won elections three years ago. Oli’s party and the party of the former Maoist rebels had merged to form a unified Communist Party.
Tensions have, however, escalated between Oli and former rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also the party’s co-chair.
The two had previously agreed to split the prime minister’s five-year tenure between themselves, but Oli refused to allow Dahal to take over.
The opposition has also accused Oli’s government of corruption and its administration has come under fire for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Oli has also been accused of drawing closer to China and moving away from Nepal’s traditional partner, India, since coming to power.
Oli pushed for a new term after the ruling NCP accused him of sidelining his party in government decisions and appointments.
He says internal feuds and his party’s lack of cooperation have crippled decision-making, forcing him to seek a new popular mandate.
His movement plunges the Himalayan country, which has experienced revolving door governance since street protests restored multi-party democracy in 1990, into political turmoil as it battles the coronavirus pandemic
Police security officials said at least 10,000 people were on the streets to participate in the march, one of the most intense protests the country has witnessed since the dissolution of Oli’s parliament.
“We handled the gathering of around 10,000 demonstrators tactfully,” Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, a police spokesman, told Reuters news agency.
The country’s highest court will continue in January to hear dozens of petitions filed against Oli’s political decision and his plans to advance the elections.
Politicians and social media users said the ruling party should have tried other political combinations to rule the country instead of calling a snap elections when its tourism-dependent economy was battered by the pandemic.
“The Prime Minister does not have the power to dissolve parliament under the Constitution. Therefore, he should reverse his decision immediately, ”Rajesh Thapa, a 19-year-old student, told the news agency, waving a flag with a red hammer and sickle printed on it, a symbol of the ruling Communist Party.