KATHMANDU, Dec 29: Even as President Bidya Devi Bhandari authenticated the much-disputed National Assembly election ordinance Friday to clear the immediate hurdle to forming the new government, multiple legal riders are still complicating the process. Election officials and legal experts say it may take at least a month more to elect a new government if everything goes as planned.
Both the Constitution and electoral laws have set the formation of the National Assembly as a pre-condition for starting the process of new government formation. Since the Federal Parliament Act-2017 defines the “federal parliament” as comprising both the upper house and lower house, government formation cannot be initiated until the National Assembly is in place, say some legal experts. The Constitution has a provision for initiating the government formation process only after parliament is duly constituted in full.
So far, the Election Commission (EC) has published the results of polls conducted under the first-past-the-post category but members are yet to be elected under proportional representation (PR). The EC has allocated PR seats for the provincial assemblies and the political parties have just submitted lists of their candidates for those assemblies. The election body, however, has not yet allocated seats for the central parliament under PR. The verification of PR votes was completed on Friday.
As the constitution provides for making all the provincial assemblies inclusive, with members from among women, Dalits, indigenous communities, Madhesis, the disabled and other marginalized groups, the EC is reluctant to announce the parliamentary seats under PR.
The constitution also has a provision for electing the National Assembly through an electoral college comprising the chiefs and deputy chiefs of all 753 local units and members of provincial assemblies. But in the absence of the provincial governors, the elected members of provincial assemblies have not yet taken their oath of office and secrecy. The absence of governors has delayed the formation of provincial assemblies and this has affected the formation of the National Assembly.
Worried over the multiple hurdles in forming the new government, the election commissioners on Friday held discussions Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba over possible ways to complete the election process and let the majority parties form the new government.
At the meeting, election commissioners urged the prime minister to take ‘immediate steps’ to complete the remaining election work. They urged him to appoint the governors and fix a date for the National Assembly elections without further delay.
However, the ruling NC and the left alliance are at loggerheads over the appointment of governors. Keeping the people of his own party in mind, Deuba wants to appoint the governors on his own while CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma has warned the outgoing PM to do no such thing. Oli has warned that provincial assembly members of his party would not take their oath of office and secrecy from NC-appointed governors.
Concerned over the growing polarization, the NC wants to quit the government only after the formation of the National Assembly. “New government formation will begin once the National Assembly is formed,” said NC leader Min Bahadur Bishwakarma, who is also minister for commerce, adding, “The EC has given just 15 days for the parties to register for the NA elections and it may take additional time to conduct the polls.”
PM Deuba is under daunting pressure from various walks of life including leaders of his own party to quit the government in the context of the left alliance prevailing in the parliamentary and provincial assembly elections.
On Thursday, the EC gave a 15-day deadline to the parties to register for the National Assembly elections. “We can conduct national assembly elections within a month,” said an election official, “But it depends upon how speedily the government acts.”