KATHMANDU, Jan 27: Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader Agni Prasad Sapkota was formally elected speaker of parliament on Sunday.
The senior-most member of the House of Representatives (HoR), Mahantha Thakur, announced his unopposed election to the position amid the House meeting.
“Since honorable member Agni Prasad Sapkota is the only candidate for the post of speaker, he has been elected unopposed according to Rule 7(3) of the HoR Regulation,” said Thakur.
The Office of the President has scheduled his oath of office for Monday. According to the parliament secretariat, he will assume office on Monday afternoon. The secretariat has planned to certify five pending bills, endorsed by the House in September last year, as the first decision of Sapkota.
“I will try to maintain a neutral and balanced role in parliament which is the place to exercise the sovereign rights of the people,” Sapkota told the media after his election.
Despite a sub judice case against Sapkota at the Supreme Court, in which he has been accused of ordering the murder of Arjun Bahadur Lama in Kavrepalanchowk district during the Maoist insurgency, NCP had decided to field him for the post of speaker. Conflict victims and civil society members are protesting against the decision stating that it has dampened their hope for justice.
Sapkota has remained tight-lipped over the allegation in recent days. Also on Sunday after his election, he didn’t comment on journalists’ questions over the issue.
Although the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) didn’t challenge Sapkota’s candidacy, the party opposed his nomination to the position in the court and the street.
“While you (Sapkota) are being elected to the post, people who were together during the movement for democracy in the past, have raised their voice in the court and outside doubting your commitment to democracy,” NC leader Minendra Rijal said. “We will also closely watch you whether you will be able to address those doubts.”
Stating that people have been elected to the post of speaker of parliament unopposed right from the beginning of the parliamentary system in the country, Rijal said NC decided not to field its candidate expecting a neutral role from Sapkota.
While proposing Sapkota’s candidacy, former speaker Subas Nembang claimed that NCP’s choice for speaker was an appropriate one as no one challenged Sapkota’s candidacy. Former speaker Onsari Gharti, NCP chief whip Dev Gurung and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal leader Laxman Lal Karna had seconded Sapkota’s nomination to the post.
Sapkota has been elected a member of parliament from Sindhupalchowk district in three consecutive elections. After teaching at a local school for 15 years, Sapkota had joined communist politics and the Maoist movement during the insurgency in the country. He served as Information and Communication Minister and Forest Minister under different governments in the past.