Saturday Features

Home but not dry

  • The two-phase elections will conclude this week, but the federal journey has just begun
- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI
The restructuring of governing apparatuses will not be hassle free, but the major challenge will be managing the finances and infrastructure required for the federal setup

Dec 2, 2017-

Despite repeated obstructions by the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) led by Netra Bikram Chand, the first phase of election for the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Provincial Assemblies (PA) have concluded in 32 districts with a 65 percent turnout. The encouraging turnout is an indication that Nepalis are yearning for peace and stability, which might now finally be possible with the full-fledged implementation of the constitution. 

The federal system, adopted in 2008, will be fully operational, and the political and the constitutional journey, started in 2006, will come full circle this month when the two phases of the elections conclude. By the second week of December, Nepal will get two legislative bodies, House of Representatives, and Provincial Assemblies in the seven provinces. The new legislature is expected to elect a new stable government that could last for five years, which would end the past trend of frequent government changes that hampered economic development. In the last 27 years, the country has witnessed 26 government changes. Those days, hopefully, have now come and gone. 

However, a path to a full-functioning federal system will not be as easy as some political narratives have suggested. The new political structure requires a re-engineering of several state mechanisms and the government has barely scratched the surface with regards to orienting the state apparatus towards a decentralised system of governance. Adjustments are yet to be made as to how exactly government employees will be deployed in the federal setup, even though a law has been endorsed to allow the deployment of civil servants in central, provincial and local level until a proper mechanism is devised to allocate the necessary human resources. 

The restructuring of governing apparatuses will not be hassle free, but a major challenge will be managing the finances and infrastructure required for the federal setup. A study conducted by a 12-member team from the parliament secretariat, led by Joint-Secretary Bharat Raj Gautam, revealed that the annual cost of the overall management of the federal and provincial parliaments will run up to Rs 4.25 billion rupees. The main expenditure includes salary and allowances of lawmakers and costs of operating the secretariats, parliamentary party offices and various committees. This figure does not account for the infrastructural expenses that will be incurred in the coming years.

There is also a question over suitable venues for the legislature at the central level and in all the seven provinces. The old parliamentary building located inside Singha Durbar is too small to house the 275 members of the House of Representatives. The first and second Constituent Assembly (CA) were hosted in the rented halls of the International Convention Centre (ICC) in New Baneshwor. Since 1993 there have been plans to construct a new parliament building. In 1996, 151 ropanis in Singha Durbar was sectioned off for the project, and in 2008 the parliament purchased 123 ropanis of land in Sainbu Village Development Committee-4 in Lalitpur. However, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Parliament Secretariat and the Singha Durbar Secretariat Reconstruction Committee have locked horns over the right to the construction. As a result, the government has continued to spend billions of rupees to rent the convention centre. Moreover, in the current setup, the parliament secretariat is located at Singha Durbar, while the parliament holds its sessions at New Baneshwor. This has resulted in technical difficulties and has raised the cost of running the parliament.  It is almost certain that these issues will continue even when the country shifts to a federal structure. 

In the seven provinces, government is preparing to either rent private buildings or convert public spaces, such as training centres and meeting halls, for provisional assembly meetings. However, the exact details have not been thrashed out because provincial capitals have emerged as a contentious issue in the run-up and during the elections. To garner the support of voters while campaigning, candidates have pushed their own constituency as the province capital. For instance, candidates in Doti are proposing Dipayal as province number 7’s capital, and candidates in Kailali and Dadeldhura are pushing Dhanghadi as the capital for the same province. Such scenario is true for other remaining six provinces as well. 

Once the elections are over, the government will announce temporary capitals and the final decision on the issue will be made by provincial assemblies. But given the endemic snail-paced decision making, one could speculate that finding a capital and deciding on a name for the provinces could take several months at least. 

Another aspect that has yet to be sorted is the location for offices and residencies of the provincial council 

of ministers. Furthermore, seven ministries and more than half dozen departments have been proposed in the provinces, which require immediate arrangement of infrastructure. A question looms as to how the revenue will be managed to sustain such projects, and studies have projected that province 6 and 7 will have difficulty staying afloat financially. 

Transitioning into the federal setup will be a challenge, but in order to ensure a seamless metamorphosis, foresight and planning is urgently required. Ideally, all details should have been ironed out by now, but as the country keenly awaits the results of the elections to begin rolling in, time is no longer a luxury. 

 

 

Federal system 

  • House of Representatives: 275 members
  • Elected under First Past the Post (FPTP): 165
  • Proportional Representation( PR): 110 
  • Upper House: 59 
  • Elected from electoral college: 56  

    3 nominated by the President, at least one woman 

  • Total members in the Provincial Assemblies: 550 members
  • Elected Under First Past the Post (FPTP): 330
  • Proportional Representation: 220  
  • President to be elected by an electoral college composed of HoR and PA 
  • HoR will have 79 votes and PA will have 48 vote weightage
  • 52,786 total electoral votes in the electoral college
  • The Cabinet size is capped at 25 ministers [ For the first time in the constitutional history of Nepal]

Published: 02-12-2017 08:31

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