The newly-elected House of Representatives (HoR) on Thursday picked CPN-UML’s Devraj Ghimire as its Speaker. While the ruling alliance candidate got 167 votes, his rival candidate Ishwari Neupane of the Nepali Congress (NC) was limited to 100 votes in the 275-member parliament. The overwhelming majority of votes that Speaker Ghimire secured in parliament also brings him huge responsibilities. The Speaker plays a vital role in ensuring that parliament is full-functioning and effective. Through maintaining order in the chamber, enforcing rules and procedures, mediating disputes among parties, representing parliament and acting as a neutral and impartial figure, the Speaker helps to ensure that parliament can conduct its business in an orderly and efficient manner, and that all members are able to participate in the democratic process. But our experience with the Speaker in the recent past suggests otherwise. Addressing a parliament, Prem Suwal, a lawmaker belonging to Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP), commented that the Speaker in the past had failed to fulfill his responsibilities. He even claimed that the Speaker had acted like a loyal cadre of the party he represented rather than playing a neutral role that this post deserves. As a newspaper, we congratulate newly-elected Speaker Ghimire and also wish to see him play the role conducive to make parliament effective so that it becomes a platform to raise the common concerns of the people.
Parliament plays a critical role in a democratic system of governance by representing the will of the people and making laws. It serves as a forum for debate and discussion on important issues and allows for the peaceful resolution of political differences through compromise and negotiation. Additionally, parliament serves as a check on the power of the executive branch of government and holds the government accountable to the people through oversight and the ability to remove the government through a vote of no confidence. Only a fully-functioning and effective parliament can fulfill all these roles and it is the Speaker, who is solely responsible to make that happen. The Speaker presides over parliamentary sessions and is responsible for maintaining order in the chamber, enforcing rules and procedures, mediating disputes between members, and representing parliament to the other branches of government and external organizations. In addition to these specific responsibilities, the Speaker must also act as a neutral and impartial figure, not taking sides in political debates. This is crucial in maintaining the integrity and credibility of parliament, and in ensuring that all members are able to participate in the democratic process. The Speaker should help to set the agenda for parliamentary sessions and determine the order of business, in order to ensure that all important issues are discussed and debated.
If we take into account the roles that the Speaker is supposed to play in parliament, it should not make any difference to anyone in parliament which party’s candidate is elected to the post. But as we could see political parties engage in hard-bargaining to secure the post, this gives us grounds to fear that the parties that elected the Speaker could make him a puppet and ask him to act the way they want him to act. Speaker Ghimire must be able to resist any such attempt and act neutral to make sure that he is able to win the trust of all political parties in parliament in order to ensure the smooth functioning of parliament. As he assumes office, Speaker Ghimire must play a role to make parliament that has the representatives of the people from all across the country a forum to promote the interests and welfare of the people they represent. He is thus expected to encourage participation and debate in parliament. It is equally important to foster transparency and accountability in parliament’s operations and decision-making process, improve legislative process and foster stronger relationships with other branches of the government. As the head of the legislative body, Speaker Ghimire should also not forget the fact that the onus lies also on him to ensure the smooth functioning of the government, facilitating its works.