Aspiring leaders make a case for HoR speaker

Kathmandu, December 8

With the bill session of the Federal Parliament likely to kick off in mid-December, leaders of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have intensified informal talks for the election of a new speaker of the House of Representatives.

Party insiders say although NCP co-chairmen — Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal — are the ones who will take a decision, aspiring leaders have informally started to make a case for why they deserved the post. The post has fallen vacant after Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s resignation following rape allegations.

While Agni Sapkota representing the former CPN-MC and Subas Nembang representing the former CPN-UML appear front-runners, HoR Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe, backed by some NCP women lawmakers, is apparently unwilling to resign.

It was earlier reported that the party leadership had requested Tumbahamphe to resign to induct her in the Cabinet in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. However, she refused to put in her papers. She had publicly stated that it would not be a wise decision to leave the parliament leaderless. Although not so strong, there’s sustained lobbying effort within the ruling party to elevate women lawmakers to top positions.

Tumbahamphe’s resignation is a must for the election of speaker from among NCP lawmakers. The Constitution’s Article 91 (2) states that the election shall be in such a way that either the speaker or the deputy speaker is a woman, and they should be from different parties. This means Tumbahamphe must resign even if she is to be elected speaker.

Despite the constitutional provision, the NCP had kept with itself both the posts of speaker and deputy speaker on grounds that Mahara (from former CPN-MC) and Tumbahamphe (from former CPN-UML) belonged to different parties at the time of their appointment. The two parties later merged to become the NCP.

If Tumbahamphe refuses to resign, the NCP has to give up the speaker’s post given the constitutional provision. However, the NCP is in no mood to give up the crucial top post although it certainly has to give up the deputy speaker’s post. “It’s almost certain that the NCP will keep the post of speaker with itself,” said a senior leader of the NCP.

Complications, however, do not end here. Election of Mahara and Tumbahamphe was done on the basis of seat sharing among former CPN-MC and CPN-UML. As per the then understanding, the former CPN-MC bagged HoR speaker and National Assembly deputy chairperson posts, while the former CPN-UML was allocated NC chairperson and HoR deputy speaker posts.

So there’s another strong lobby from NCP lawmakers representing former CPN-MC that the new speaker be elected from among them. On the other hand, those representing the former CPN-UML are of the view that since the parties have already been merged, promoting factionalism would only weaken the party.

“It is up to the chairmen duo to decide on that. Nobody knows what they are up to,” said another senior leader of the NCP. “They might have reached an understanding on how to move ahead on all these issues, including remaining tasks of the party unification, when Dahal was assigned executive role.”

Dahal has lately been expediting meetings in prelude to tomorrow’s secretariat meeting under his chairmanship. While he met PM Oli and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel yesterday, he held a rather long meeting with NCP Senior Leader Madhav Kumar Nepal today. Knowledgeable sources said the talks mostly centred on the agendas for tomorrow’s secretariat meeting, such as calling meeting of central and the standing committees, introspection of the recently-held by-elections, and concluding remaining tasks of party unification. However, the secretariat is also expected to discuss the appointment of the HoR speaker. NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said although the matter was not on the agenda for tomorrow’s secretariat meeting, it might be discussed since it is a pertinent issue.