Slippery road ahead

  • Approval of NA election ordinance is a positive sign but govt formation is still distant

Jan 1, 2018-

The resolution of the dispute over the National Assembly (NA) election ordinance came as a pleasant surprise. After months of holding on to the draft ordinance and asking the Nepali Congress to reach a compromise with the other parties, President Bidya Bhandari suddenly ratified the ordinance on Friday. 

The ordinance is in the form proposed by the NC. It adopts the Single Transferable Vote (STV) mechanism to elect the NA, which had been opposed by the CPN-UML. Bhandari’s decision seems to have had the approval of the UML leadership as well. It appears that UML Chair KP Oli decided to withdraw his opposition to the STV mechanism after realising that it wasn’t worth it for his party to delay the government formation process in this way, especially in a situation where all other major parties—including the CPN-Maoist Centre—were on the NC’s side. The UML deserves some appreciation for adopting a flexible attitude. 

With the passage of the ordinance, the path to the formation of a new government is now open and the steps that need to be followed are clear. However, there are many steps that need to be completed before the government can be formed, and this will still take some time. 

First, the government will have to appoint governors to the seven provinces. Second, the Election Commission will have to hand over the list of elected provincial representatives to the governor of each province. The seven provincial assemblies will then have to be formally established. Third, the Election Commission will have to administer elections to the NA. Here, representatives of the provincial assemblies and the chiefs and deputy chiefs of local federal units will vote for members of the upper house. Fourth, the parties and the EC will have to determine the composition of the House of Representatives (HoR). They will have to ensure that the PR seats in the HoR are allocated in such a way that at least 33 percent of the total members of the HoR and NA are women. And finally, the HoR will have to vote for a new prime minister after it is established.

This is a complex series of events, and it is quite likely that there could be political complications at one or another step in its implementation. The immediate task for all parties is to devise a roadmap so as to avoid any potential snags. It is essential that the parties follow the constitutional requirements to the letter. As a first step, the government needs to appoint governors to provinces (preferably in consultation with all major parties) and provincial assemblies need to be established. This needs to be done rather soon, as NA elections are scheduled for January 12. 

The formation of the HoR and elections for a new prime minister will likely take some more time; the EC has estimated that it could take more than a month. Nonetheless, now that the NA ordinance has been ratified, we hope that the path towards government formation will be relatively smooth. 

Published: 01-01-2018 08:01

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