Unhelpful parties

  • Positions taken by both UML and Nepali Congress have not helped post-poll politics

Dec 25, 2017-

Over the course of the past week, both the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML hardened their positions over the National Assembly (NA) ordinance and the path towards forming a new government. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba insisted that the President ratify the version of the ordinance as drafted by the NC government. He even said that it would be unconstitutional for her to delay the ratification. 

In addition, the NC holds the view that the new government can be formed only after elections to the NA, the upper House of federal parliament, are held. As the NA can be formed only after provincial assemblies are established (because provincial legislators and local representatives have to vote for NA representatives), following the NC’s proposal will likely mean it will take weeks for the new government to be formed. 

UML chief KP Oli, meanwhile, has been insisting on the immediate appointment of the new government. He not only states that the House of Representatives (HoR), the lower House, should be formed before the NA is established. He also wants the new government to determine the contents of the NA election bill.

Both these positions are unhelpful. On the one hand, the NC cannot dictate the contents of the NA election ordinance, especially in a situation when it is leading a lame-duck government. Similarly, it cannot hold on to power for months on end when the Nepali public has voted them out of office. 

Now that it has lost the election, the NC has to make preparations for a swift and gracious handover of power to the left alliance. On the other hand, Oli’s posturing could also lead to conflict. Rather than seek to dominate the NC, he needs to reach a political accommodation on the basis of the principle of consensus, which played such a crucial role during the peace process. 

While it makes sense for the UML to ask that the change in government occur soon, it should not insist on block voting system to the NA, as it is currently doing. Adopting this system would mean that the NC wouldn’t receive even a single seat in the upper House. This would enable the almost total domination of the left alliance in the parliament.

Fortunately, there are a number of political leaders who have been engaged in back-channel efforts to resolve this dispute. The members of the CPN-Maoist Centre have a particularly crucial role to play here. While they are members of the left alliance, they are less rigid than the UML and have decent relations with NC leaders. This should enable them to help forge a compromise. 

Ultimately, the parties should aim to devise an electoral system through consensus that enables the NC and other smaller parties in the HoR representation in the NA. At the same time, parties need to devise plans for a smooth handover of power. After all, what happens now sets a political precedent over how politics are managed over the next five years until the next scheduled elections. And as important, how they manage a peaceful handover over power, the hallmark of a democracy.

Published: 25-12-2017 07:41

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