Speaker election process to begin on Friday

Kathmandu, December 20

The first meeting of the Bill Session of the House of Representatives today concluded calling its next meeting for December 27 when the process of electing a new speaker will start.

In the absence of a speaker, Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe chaired today’s meeting which began with Tumbahamphe reading out President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s message, followed by passage of a few condolence motions. The speaker’s post has remained vacant since Krishna Bahadur Mahara was arrested on attempt-to-rape charge.

Parliament Secretariat Spokesperson Dasharath Dhamala said although not formally decided, the December 27 meeting was likely to announce a date for the election of the new speaker to begin the election process.

However, election of a new speaker is not as simple as it looks, thanks to the constitution’s provision in Article 91 (2) that states the speaker or the deputy speaker has to be a woman, representing different parties.

This means that the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) cannot file nomination for the speaker’s post until Tumbahamphe, who represents the NCP, resigns. If she does not resign, the NCP has to give up the speaker’s post. However, the NCP is in no mood to give up the crucial post of speaker even at the expense of deputy speaker’s post.

At the same time, Tumbahamphe must resign even if she is to be elected speaker to be eligible to file her nomination for the post. This means Tumbahamphe’s resignation is imminent and the election for both speaker and deputy speaker will take place in the Parliament.

However, Tumbahamphe has not yet decided whether to resign. “Our party’s leadership has not consulted me on this matter, neither formally nor informally,” she told THT. “The leadership must consult me first for me to reach a conclusion on this matter. Morally, I cannot just put in my papers and render the HoR leaderless.”

Although aspiring leaders have been lobbying for the post, party insiders say no formal discussion has taken place in the party as leaders are busy with the ongoing standing committee meeting.

Agni Sapkota, representing the former CPN-Maoist Centre, and Subas Nembang, representing the erstwhile CPN-UML, appear front-runners for now.

The standing committee too has not discussed the matter, according to NCP standing committee member Pampha Bhusal. “Co-chairmen Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal will take the decision, as discussion in the standing committee could slow the decision making process,” Bhusal told THT. “The senior-most lawmaker can chair the meeting after the deputy speaker resigns to begin the election process.”

Despite the constitutional provision, the NCP had kept 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 form the NCP.

Meanwhile, today’s HoR meeting was supposed to be addressed by leaders of parliamentary parties, but was later dropped from the business as per the decision of the Parliamentary Business Advisory Committee meeting chaired by Tumbahamphe.

Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal leader Laxman Lal Karna said the committee decided that leaders would address the HoR only after it got a new speaker.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly held its first meeting of the Bill Session today. The meeting began with NA Chairperson Ganesh Prasad Timilsina reading out the president’s message. It was followed by addresses from NA parliamentary party leaders — Dinanath Sharma from the NCP, Surendra Raj Pandey from the Nepali Congress, Pramila Kumari from the Samajwadi Party-Nepal and Brikhesh Chandra Lal from RJP-N.

The NA has called its next meeting on Monday. Parliament Secretariat Spokesperson Dhamala said the agenda for Monday’s NA meeting would be finalised by Sunday.