EDITORIAL: Play by the rules

The ruling party cannot misinterpret the constitutional provisions as per its convenience for the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker

The main opposition Nepali Congress (NC)’s demand that the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) either offer the post of Speaker or Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives (HoR) to it is constitutionally valid. Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Deputy Speaker Shivamaya Tumbahamphe now belong to the same party – NCP, as then CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre announced their unification on May 17. Mahara and Tumbahamphe were elected to their respective posts on behalf of the CPN-MC and UML. They, however, resigned from their parties’ responsibilities after being elected to the posts to maintain neutrality in the House. Article 91 (2) of the constitution has clearly stated that elections for the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker shall be so held that one of them is a woman and that the two should represent different political parties. This Article also equally applies even to the elections of the provincial Speakers and Deputy Speakers. These two posts were also elected from opposite gender and from different parties. The idea behind electing Speaker and Deputy Speaker from opposite sex and different parties was to ensure representation of multiple parties in the Prime Minister-headed Constitutional Council, where the opposition leader and the Speaker are the ex-officio members.

Deputy Parliamentary Party leader of NCP Subas Chandra Nembang’s claim that the constitutional provision does not apply to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker as they had resigned from their parties is a “wrong argument” in NC lawmaker Radheshyam Adhikari’s words. Nembang’s assertion is nothing more than a feeble excuse to diminish the genuine issue raised by the main opposition. Records in Parliament show Mahara and Tumbahamphe had contested the elections for the posts they currently hold on behalf of their respective parties abiding by the constitutional obligations. The ruling party cannot misinterpret the constitutional provisions as per its convenience. Nembang, who had held the Speaker’s post several times and also served as the Constituent Assembly chairman twice, should avoid issuing such knee-jerk statements on such a serious issue.

There are certain norms that the ruling and opposition parties must follow to uphold the parliamentary dignity. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, for instance, is one of the panels traditionally held by the main opposition to hold the government accountable in financial aspects. The constitution has also added new provisions under which the ruling party has to share some important posts with the main opposition. Even if political parties may settle the issue of sharing the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker at the Centre, the same problem is likely to arise in the six provincial assemblies except for Province 2. The then CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre had shared three posts – chief minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker – between them before their unification. As they have become a unified ruling party and have also registered it with the Election Commission as NCP, the provincial Speaker and Deputy Speaker posts should also be shared between the ruling and main opposition as per the constitutional provision. The ruling party must play by the rules.

Challenges ahead

The mid-term review of the Asia Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development, made public on Monday, highlights the key achievements Nepal has made in recognising the fact that fulfilling the rights of women and girls is the key to development. It also underscores the key activities for further implementation of the Programme of Action of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The ICPD review says Nepal’s National Health Policy 2014, which recognises health as a human right, has been successful. The first ICPD in Cairo in 1994, endorsed by 179 countries, had adopted a 20-year Programme of Action focusing on individuals’ needs and rights.

While Nepal has made significant strides in reducing the maternal mortality rate and increasing life expectancy at birth, the country still faces many challenges. Poverty eradication, employment, migration, food security and nutrition, health and education, climate resilience, gender equality and social inclusion are some of the key challenges ahead. Nepal should outline the challenges and find ways through international consultations to overcome them.