Speaker choice deadlock again delays lower house business

Published On: January 1, 2020 08:01 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Jan 1: The meeting of the lower house of parliament has been deferred yet again after the ruling Nepal Communist Party failed to produce a consensus candidate for speaker.

A day before the lower house was scheduled to initiate the election of the new speaker, the parliamentary secretariat issued a notice putting off its meeting till January 12. Citing ‘special circumstances’, parliament General Secretary Manohar Prasad Bhattarai deferred the meeting for two weeks.

Previously, the secretariat had announced resumption of the meeting from Tuesday and initiation of the process for selecting the new speaker. 

This is the second time parliament has deferred a session at the request of the ruling party. The latest deferral notice was issued after NCP chiefs KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal failed to decide on a speaker candidate from the party. 

Both the top party leaders have been pushing their own candidates for speaker.

Oli wants to select former speaker Subas Nemang to the position again. Dahal is backing Agni Sapkota as the candidate. Incumbent Deputy Speaker Shivamaya Tumbahangphe herself is lobbying for the position, arguing it’s her legitimate right to upgrade to the higher position when it has fallen vacant. 

Tumbahangphe is said to be enjoying the support of President Bidya Devi Bhandari. Many women rights activists have also demanded that she be elevated to speaker.

The post of speaker position fell vacant when then speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara was suspended from the position after being charged with attempting to rape a staffer at the parliament secretariat. 

Some leaders of the NCP, which was formed after the merging of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), have been demanding that the new speaker be picked from the Maoist camp as Mahara was from that camp also.

Oli, however, wants to give the speakership to two times former speaker Subas Nembang, citing  his experience in dealing across party lines. 

In a bid to produce a consensus candidate, Dahal had gone to Baluwatar for discussions with Oli. But the meeting ended without making any headway.

With the ruling party still undecided about speaker, the parliamentary endorsement of several bills and the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement signed with the US are likely to be delayed further.

Because of the delay, the US has not released the funds for MCC Nepal staff. The government has been paying the staff salaries.


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