Mission not-yet-accomplished

  • The major parties now have to take immediate steps to ensure smooth transfer of power

Dec 18, 2017-With the left alliance having won a substantial majority in the elections, it is clear that the left alliance/CPN-UML will lead the next federal government. However, substantial obstacles have now emerged and it looks like it will take some time for the new government to take office. 

A new prime minister cannot be elected before the House of Representatives (HoR) is established. But there are significant difficulties in filling the Proportional Representation (PR) seats. The constitution states that the HoR and National Assembly (NA), two Houses of parliament, together have to jointly include at least 33 percent of women. In order to fulfil these requirements, the parties have to sit together and decide on how many PR seats to allocate to women in the HoR and NA. This means that the HoR and NA have to be formed simultaneously. 

But then there are major challenges in electing a new NA. One, there is no law on the electoral system to be adopted. The Nepali Congress (NC) government sent an ordinance for the President’s approval, but she has in turn asked the government to seek cross-party consensus on the issue before sending it back to her. And here the parties are divided. The left alliance wants the adoption of a block voting system, which would benefit the larger parties in parliament. The NC, on the other hand, wants a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system that would allow smaller parties more influence. The ordinance is stuck over this dispute.

Moreover, even if this dispute was quickly resolved and passed as an ordinance, there could be other difficulties. The constitution states that the NA will be elected by members of the provincial assemblies and local bodies. This means that the provincial assemblies will have to be established before elections to the NA can take place or the HoR established. 

The major parties have to take immediate steps to overcome this impasse. The UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) would do well to agree to an electoral system which is not majoritarian but one that allows smaller parties in the assemblies a say in who gets into the NA. After all, a key principle of liberal democracy is to allow smaller groups a voice. For its part, the NC has to demonstrate that it is not keen to hang on to power and will relinquish control of the government to the left alliance as soon as possible. 

In the meantime, the formation of provincial assemblies will have to be expedited. In consultation with lawyers, the parties should also explore other constitutional options to enable a quick and smooth transfer of power. Nepal has entered a crucial phase in its democratic exercise to a federal republic. If parties agree on a smooth transfer of power guided by a set of rules and democratic norms, the precedent set this time augurs well for future.

Published: 18-12-2017 07:50

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