Magic number

At long last, three and a half months after the election to the Constituent Assembly (CA), the process of government formation is on the point of being formally set in motion, once the newly elected First President of Nepal makes a formal call to that end. The three major posts of the executive and the legislature — President, Vice President, Chairman of CA — have now been filled, and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala tendered his resignation to the President on Wednesday after the latter’s swearing-in. Political parties have continued their coalition-building exercises, but who takes the first initiative also depends on the way the President gives his invitation. This week, Congress and CPN-UML leaders have publicly said that the CPN-Maoist should take the lead. On their part, the Maoists have already publicly declared that they will not form the government or take part in one as long as the three-party alliance is in existence. Besides, the CPN-M has said that it has lost its moral right to lay a claim to forming the government because the presidential and vice presidential elections showed it to be in a minority in the CA.

Indeed, this minority argument is powerful, at least for the time being. However, tomorrow, if the three-party combine failed to prove its majority, say, in its attempt to form a coalition, then the question of majority-minority in the CA might need to be looked at in a fresh manner.

Now that the NC, the UML, and the MJF have won between them the three top legislative and executive posts, it may have been uneasy for their leaders to be publicly seen trying to form a government without the CPN-Maoist, which is more than the combined numerical strength of the NC and the UML in the CA. If the direct election alone, which reflects the true mood of the electorate because they have voted for both party and candidate at the same time in each constituency, is to be considered, all the 24 other parties in the CA are just equal in numerical

strength to the CPN-M. But the leaders of the NC and the UML need not have qualms about what message might get across to the public if they appeared to bypass the Maoists.

Now that the political parties have switched from consensual approach to majoritarian system,

they will have to be able to get rid of the uneasiness they may be feeling. However, if the parties are able to achieve consensus on government formation, it will be all right with the public. Indeed, in the present context, it is generally expected to contribute much better to the success of the peace process and drafting of the constitution. But the simple fact is that in a hung parliament, whoever is able to put together the magic number (50% + one votes out of the total existing number of CA members) will form a government. The question of the single largest party is of secondary importance to the all-important criterion, majority support. Besides the government based on political consensus or on majority support, there is the third option of minority government, which will have to be used if the other means fail to produce a government, because otherwise the country will be without a government.