KATHMANDU, Oct 4: Following Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s resignation as speaker over a rape allegation, both the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) are staking their claims to the top position in the legislature.
As of now it is far from clear who will get the coveted post and the large parties are working on strategy to bring in their own man or woman. The opposition party has demanded that the position of either speaker or deputy speaker should be given to it as per the constitutional provision under which the speaker and deputy speaker should be from different political parties.
“The election under clause (1) shall be so held that there is one woman as either Speaker or Deputy Speaker, and the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be representatives from different parties,” states the constitution.
Outgoing speaker Mahara represented the then CPN (Maoist Center) and the current deputy speaker, Shivamaya Tumbahamphe, was from the former CPN-UML at the time of their election. Later, the two parties were merged to form the NCP. But the ruling party refused to make any changes to the two posts, arguing that they were no longer with any party as they had already resigned their party positions immediately after being elected speaker and deputy speaker.
With a deputy speaker from the NCP already in place, the opposition NC has claimed that the post of speaker should automatically be someone from its fold.
But experts and party leaders said that since the post of speaker is crucial for running parliament, the NCP is unlikely to let it go to the opposition. The NC is seriously discussing within and outside the party on how to coral the speaker’s position. Its prospects are considered slim, given that the ruling party commands a near two-thirds majority in parliament.
“I don’t think they [ruling party leaders] will give the position of speaker to the main opposition,” said Bipin Adhikari, a constitutional expert, adding, “If they are inclined to do so it will be an opportunity to prove their democratic credentials at a time when the party is facing criticism for compromising parliamentary values.”
In an attempt to retain the speaker’s position, the ruling party leaders are said to be asking Deputy Speaker Tumbahamphe to resign so that they could field new candidates for both speaker and deputy speaker, said a ruling party leader.
If the deputy speaker also resigns her position, the seniormost lawmaker by age will chair the house proceedings and conduct the meetings for electing the new speaker and deputy speaker.
The NCP is mulling over the idea of fielding either former speaker Subas Nembang or Dev Gurung as candidate for new speaker. Deputy Speaker Tumbahamphe is also lobbying to get elevated to the top position.
Nembang, who represents the former UML camp, led the Constituent Assembly for eight years. Gurung, who is currently chief whip of the NCP, is also considered a suitable candidate for speaker. But for many, Gurung comes across as a rigid communist.