The Election Commission will give validity to the members of the CPN-UML central committee elected by the last general convention while deciding on the petition filed by the Madhav Kumar Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction of the CPN-UML seeking to split the party.

Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya said the ordinance brought recently to amend the Political Party Act clearly stipulated that the central committee members elected by a party's general convention or the central committee members identified by a political party at the time of registering the party with the EC will be deemed valid for the purpose of splitting a party.

While the Nepal-Khanal faction said the party's last general convention had elected 203 members and the EC should recognise the same body, the establishment faction of the UML claimed that there were 260 members in the party's central committee and the EC should decide on the Nepal-Khanal faction's claims on the basis of the 260-member central committee.

Out of 203 Central Committee members, Nepal faction has submitted signatures of 58 members (around 28 per cent) to the EC. As per the new amendment made to the Political Party Act through an ordinance, dissidents need to have the support of only 20 per cent of the central committee or the parliamentary party to split their mother party. Earlier, support of 40 per cent members of both the central committee and the parliamentary party was needed to split a party.

Another source at the EC said the claim of UML's establishment faction might not be deemed valid as the numbers were added to the party's central committee after the last general convention. The establishment faction of the party added members to the central committee to increase its majority and to reduce the rival faction's support in the party's apex body.

The EC has summoned leaders of the Nepal-Khanal faction who signed the petition seeking to split the party on August 25 for signature verification.

The establishment faction of the CPN-UML had sent a list of 260-member central committee to the EC urging it to update it, but the EC has not taken a call on the issue.

CPN-UML's lawyer Advocate Baburam Dahal said the EC needed to recognise the 260-member central committee as there were 241 members in the party's central committee when the UML had merged with the CPN-MC in 2018 and 23 members were duly added to the central committee later. The 23 members that the establishment faction added included former CPN-MC leaders Ram Bahadur Thapa, Lekhraj Bhatta, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, and Prabhu Sah who sided with the party Chair KP Sharma Oli after he dissolved the House of Representatives as the prime minister.

Dahal said the EC should not count 14 UML lawmakers who were expelled by the establishment faction. Of the 14 UML lawmakers, nine are also central committee members. EC Spokesperson Raj Kumar Shrestha said his office had written to the Parliament Secretariat seeking to identify the status of the 14 lawmakers.

Although the establishment faction of the UML has pressured Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota to issue a notice confirming the expulsion of 14 UML lawmakers, Sapkota is yet to do so.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 23 2021, of The Himalayan Times.