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Parties’ Upper House picks dismay watchers

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Jan 27, 2018-

Major parties have failed to grasp the spirit of the constitution and to realise the purpose of the National Assembly, observers have said, referring to candidate selection for the Upper House election.

Internal rifts over the picks aside, observers accused the parties of fielding candidates who are inexperienced for the post only because they are their favourites. Nominations have been over for the elections scheduled for February 7.

Though the constitution does not specify, political analysts said prominent personalities with reputable knowledge and experience should have been the parties’ choice. They say that prominent personalities knowledgeable on various matters are traditionally elected to the Upper House as they have to endorse bills passed by the House of Representatives (HoR) after proper scrutiny.

“Party leaders picked those who are near and dear to them. Leaders who did not get a chance in the Lower House and the provincial assemblies are the candidates in the NA elections,” said Prof Krishna Khanal. The only positive aspect for watchers is that the NA will be an inclusive parliament.

There are no clear provisions in the constitution and the laws on the criteria for candidate selection. Article 87 of the new constitution says that people above 35 years, not having been involved in criminal offences and not holding any office of profit are eligible to be an NA member.

This is the first time since 2007 that the National Assembly (NA) is being elected. The NA under the 1990 constitution was dissolved on January 15, 2007 and replaced by a unicameral interim legislature. Following two Constituent Assembly elections, which also served as a unitary Legislature-Parliament, the new constitution in 2015 provisioned the NA as the upper house.

Constitutional expert Nilamber Acharya said the provisions related to age provide a clear message. “The age requirement to become a member of the HoR is 25 years while it is 35 years in case of the National Assembly. There are certain philosophies behind this difference,” said Acharya.

“The Upper House is elected by people’s representatives such as the chiefs and deputy chiefs of the local bodies. So the NA has its own prominence,” said Acharya, adding that spirits of the constitutional provisions must be considered while forming the NA.

Prof Khanal argues that there has been no clear cut mandate for the Upper House since 1990. “Parties were never serious about bringing senior and experienced personalities to the Upper House,” said Khanal.

Along with intra-party rift, there are questions from various sections about the candidates. There are voices of dissatisfaction within the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) that leaders who contributed to the political movements are deliberately sidelined while picking the candidates.

For instance, the UML is under fire for selecting Komal Oli by side-lining party’s leaders who contributed to major political movements. Inside the NC, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel has expressed dissatisfaction at the selection of candidates.

Published: 27-01-2018 07:58

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