Nepal’s Chief Justice Is Suspended, Deepening Political Chaos

Nepal’s Chief Justice Is Suspended, Deepening Political Chaos

The suspension is likely to deepen the confrontation between Nepal’s governing and opposition parties. The political chaos threatens $500 million in U.S. aid that Nepal, whose tourism-based economy has been thrashed by the pandemic, desperately needs to build cross-country electrical lines and upgrade roads. The aid has been held up since 2017, with Nepali officials loath to ratify the money — a onetime grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. agency — because it is unpopular among voters who see it as a threat to Nepal’s sovereignty.

The House speaker has refused to convene lawmakers to ratify the aid agreement, while the Maoist Party leader has met virtually with top Chinese officials. And members of Mr. Oli’s party have obstructed parliamentary action for months by shouting slogans and demonstrating inside the chamber.

The opposition prefers getting help on infrastructure from China, whose leader, Xi Jinping, visited in 2019 and vowed to enhance connectivity on roads, railways, aviation and communication under his mammoth Belt and Road Initiative. So far, however, no Nepal projects have begun.

Time may be running out on the $500 million American grant. Last week Donald Lu, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, told Nepal it had until the end of the month to ratify the aid, according to local news media reports.

The impeachment motion against the chief justice was initiated, local news outlets reported, after partners in the governing coalition agreed to support the ratification of the aid tacitly by being absent from the vote in the House. The remaining parliamentarians largely support receiving the U.S. grant, so the absence of members of the Maoist party would probably translate into easy ratification.

Some opposition leaders “don’t want to endorse it at the cost of losing public support,” said Rajan Bhattarai, the foreign policy chief of Mr. Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist).

“They agreed to impeach the chief justice, a cheap tactical move first, and then to push for ratification of the U.S. aid,” Mr. Bhattarai said. “The impeachment motion against the chief justice has been introduced in a planned way.”

Leave a Reply