President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on Friday night, dissolved the House of Representatives for the second time and announced mid-term elections for November 12 and 19.
The opposition alliance and sections of the society and analysts and experts have criticized the move, saying it is unconstitutional and that elections in the midst of the pandemic could spell a catastrophe.
The Oli government has for long faced criticism for its poor handling of the pandemic. As coronavirus cases continue to rise, the country has run out of its vaccine stock. There is no clarity yet as to when additional doses will arrive.
Nepalis on social media are saying “no vaccine, no vote” to oppose the House dissolution and poll declaration.
On Saturday, #novaccinenovote was trending on Twitter.
The government has not been able to provide vaccines to nearly 96 percent of the population while many people who got their first doses of the Covidshield vaccine are yet to receive their second doses.
“Why should we cast vote if our government can’t provide us oxygen, hospital beds, resources, vaccines? If you want vote provide us vaccine first. #NoVaccineNoVote #NepalNeedsVaccine” wrote a Twitter user.
This breaks my heart to see where our country is going! We’re crumbling apart slowly, but in the midst of a pandemic, when so many people are dying, how on earth can these leaders can think of any thing apart from saving the lives of the people? Shambles! #NoVaccineNoVote
— Mohit Rauniyar (@mohitrauniyar) May 22, 2021
How could they be so shameless? They don’t have budget for buying vaccine, or can I say They neglect us cuz we don’t matter for them. And now they are going to prepare for election, for which it needs billions of rupees. #novaccinenovote #Nepal #NepaliPolitics,” wrote another user.
This was the second time in five months that the House was dissolved. On December 20 last year, Oli had suddenly dissolved the House and announced snap polls for April 30 and May 10, throwing the country into political uncertainty.
In January, Nepal began its vaccination drive against Covid-19. The vaccination drive was launched with the one million doses of Covid-19 vaccine that India had provided under grant assistance. India had provided one million doses of the vaccine jointly developed by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and produced in India by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
The first phase of the vaccination campaign was completed on March 5 when 438,000 people received their first doses, according to the government.
The second phase of vaccination was held on March 7-15 when around 1.3 million people were inoculated with the first dose, however, their second doses have become uncertain after India stopped the export of Covidshield citing a rapid spike in Covid-19 cases there.
Nepal had also granted emergency use approval to Sinopharm’s Vero Cell (BBIBP-CorV) on February 15. The government resumed vaccination from April 7 after 800,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine were provided by China in grant. Currently, between May 16-25, the second dose of the Chinese vaccine is being administered.
On May 10, Prime Minister Oli himself wrote an opinion piece in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper titled “Nepal is overwhelmed by Covid. We need help”, as the country’s health system couldn’t handle record surges in Covid-19 cases.
Even the government publicly announced that the country’s health system was unable to cope with the surge in cases. People in the country were struggling to get hospital beds and oxygen for seriously ill patients after which many people came to social media seeking assistance.
Users were flooded in social media platforms with appeals for urgent help through posts, retweets, shares and story uploads to help distressed citizens in several cities across the country.
To help people, youths across the country also started new initiatives like Covid Connect Nepal which connected many assistance providers and seekers. Viber groups and Facebook groups were made to help people out in trouble and people started sharing information about the resources there.
The country of 30 million people on Monday reported 7, 220 new infections with 185 deaths. The number of people dying from Covid-19 stood at 6, 531. According to the Health Ministry, active cases stand at 1,15,447.