Nepal | August 05, 2020

Question of threshold: A stabilising factor

Pranav Bhattarai
Share Now:

A lower threshold ensures a more representative parliament while a higher threshold ensures political stability. Threshold has been widely accepted and used as an instrument to balance the representative nature of the parliament

Voting ballet, Election, Election commissionWhether or not to keep a threshold provision for election is a contentious issue among political parties. An amendment bill to political party legislation is being reviewed and discussed at the sub-committee under the parliamentary state affairs committee, but it doesn’t show signs of moving forward due to lack of consensus among big and fringe parties on a threshold. Big parties have in principle agreed to provision three percent threshold but fringe parties are opposed to it.

Currently there are around 31 political parties in the parliament. Of them, only 11 parties garnered more than one percent of the votes. Had there been a three percent threshold provision, only four parties would have been represented in the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections. The provision of one percent threshold could have secured representation of only 11 political parties in the current parliament. The possible scenario of dismal legislative representation must have scared fringe parties of being deprived of their current parliamentary status during the upcoming provincial and federal elections.

Debate on a threshold has time and again figured in the political narratives but has never materialized. We should be mindful of the fact that an electoral law and political system are intrinsically linked. Reforms in the electoral laws lead to reforms in the political system, and a reformed political system leads to better and stable democratic governance. Frequent changes of governments, unstable politics and fragmentation of political parties into tiny groups hit records after the CA election. The ongoing trade-off on threshold issue is a denominator of political parties’ anti-reform tendency, though they never refrain from making promises for electoral reforms.

Global experience and practice show that use of a electoral threshold plays a vital role in offering us opportunities to discourage political instability, rapid change of governments and formation of countless smaller political parties, some of which are even led by a single parliamentarian for selfish motives. It seems that if political parties again fail to bulldoze the threshold provision in the political party legislation bill this time too, people would hardly trust them and  question their credibility and commitment for future electoral reforms.

A threshold balances political stability and parliamentary representation. Many countries have adopted it taking into account their own local realities, geography and demographic composition. Many countries have adopted a certain percent of threshold as a minimum democratic criterion for parties to be eligible for representation in the parliament. Globally there is a practice of putting a threshold as low as 0.67 percent in the Netherlands and as high as 10 percent in Turkey.

Some countries have even proposed a separate but higher threshold for political party coalitions during elections. The electoral threshold for political party coalition varies from five to 15 percent. Hungarian law has fixed a 10 percent threshold for bipartite coalition and 15 percent for multi-party coalitions. Slovakia has 7 and 10 percent thresholds for bipartite and multi-party collations respectively. Poland, Romania and Moldova have eight, 10 and 12 percent threshold for political party alliances during elections.

Experience shows that some of the countries have even practiced a separate threshold provision for national and regional political parties. Georgia has five percent threshold for national elections and seven percent for regional elections. A threshold has played an important role in stabilizing politics in different countries across the globe. To encourage ethnic and minority representation in political process, the threshold provision in Poland doesn’t apply to ethnic and minority political parties. Similarly, Romania has a separate threshold for ethnic political groups. These varied experiences show that differential use of the threshold provision has helped balance representation and stability of the governments in different countries.

The provision of threshold serves as a stabilizing factor for politics. Prudent use of electoral threshold ensures political and governmental stability. If we had legalized threshold provisions in the past CA elections, it could have mitigated some of the political ills we have been witnessing over the years. In parliamentary elections after the 1990s, there was a provision for parties to secure at least three percent of the cast votes to qualify for a national political party status. It was also a kind of electoral threshold but was later removed during the 2008 CA election to allow political parties more representation in the constitution writing process.

A lower threshold ensures a more representative parliament while a higher threshold ensures political stability. That is why threshold has been widely accepted and used as an instrument to balance the representative nature of the parliament and stability of the democratic polity. Therefore, a country like Nepal with its ethnic, geographic, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity can take into account its contextual realities to use the threshold in different ways. But, political lobbying by fringe parties to pressurize political heavyweights to roll back their proposal on threshold doesn’t augur well for a federal democratic polity of Nepal


A version of this article appears in print on March 17, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Former king Juan Carlos decides to leave Spain amid corruption allegations

Prosecutors looking into bribe allegations Pressure had been building on royals to take action Former king remains "at the disposal" of prosecutors The 82-year-old helped guide Spain back to democracy MADRID: Spain's former king Juan Carlos has decided to leave his country, a drama Read More...

Ruling party co-chairs stick to their guns

Oli to remain PM till general election, co-chair till General Convention: NCP leader Gokul Baskota Kathmandu, August 3 Co-chairs of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal and KP Sharma Oli held talks today in an attempt to break the current impasse in the party, but failed to Read More...

Airlines seek permission to resume flights

Airline companies have to resubmit their proposal for slots if flight operations are halted for more than 60 days Kathmandu, August 3 The government's decision to resume domestic and international flights from August 17 has prompted airline companies to start submitting their proposals to the Ci Read More...

Dhading bans sand mining during monsoon

Dhading, August 3 In view of increasing deaths related to river mining, the authority in Dhading decided to impose a complete ban on sand mining from rivers in the district during the monsoon season. There is already a rule that bans mining of river products using heavy equipment during the ra Read More...

File photo of Melamchi Water Supply Project tunnel.

‘Technical error caused Melamchi tunnel accident’

Kathmandu, August 3 A committee formed to investigate Melamchi tunnel incident has concluded that one of the sluice gates on the tunnel of the Melamchi Water Supply Project had broken due to a technical error. A project engineer and a driver had died due to the flood resulting from the breakag Read More...

reproductive health, Minister of State for Health and Population, Padma Kumari Aryal

Work responsibly, Minister Aryal directs employees

Kathmandu, August 3 Minister of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Padma Kumari Aryal has directed government employees to work responsibly as the ministry has the responsibility of protecting the property of over 30 million people of the country. She said this at the annual Read More...

PM visits under-construction museum at his private residence

Bhaktapur, August 3 Prime Minister and Co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) KP Sharma Oli today visited his private residence at Balkot and met with people from different walks of life. This is the third time the prime minister has visited his private residence after being electe Read More...

‘Harsher punishment against acid attackers’

Kathmandu, August 3 Women and Social Welfare Committee of the House of Representatives has directed the home ministry to make some amendments to the legal arrangement and punishment related to incidents of acid attack, pointing out the need of timely revision. After the discussion held on ‘a Read More...