Search intensifies for a candidate for the now-vacant post of House SpeakerThe Samajbadi Party Nepal and the Nepali Congress are both vying for the post of either Speaker or Deputy Speaker.
After Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s resignation as House Speaker following rape allegations, the political parties are now attempting to reach consensus on his successor.
The appointment is particularly tricky because of constitutional provisions that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker need to be from different parties and one of them a woman. While many believed Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, the incumbent Deputy Speaker from the ruling party, would be an obvious choice as Speaker with the post of Deputy Speaker given to any other party, recent developments say otherwise.
On Sunday, according to leaders familiar with the exercise to elect a new Speaker, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Co-chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called Tumbahangphe to Baluwatar to discuss the matter.
According to an aide to Tumbahangphe, Oli did not explicitly ask her to step down but urged her to play a facilitatory role.
“The prime minister ‘reminded’ her of the newly emerged dynamics in the Lower House,” the aide told the Post on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter. “Though he didn’t ask her to resign, he said it is necessary to manage a power balance in Parliament.”
According to a number of leaders that the Post spoke to, the ruling communist party does not want to give up the Speaker’s post but the likelihood of Tumbahangphe being elevated to Speaker is low.
“We will keep the Speaker with us but we have not decided whom to offer the post of Deputy Speaker as we still have many days to go for the next House session,” Bishnu Rimal, Oli’s chief adviser, told the Post. Parliament is currently not in session.
If the ruling party appoints one of its lawmakers as Speaker, it has to give up Deputy Speaker to either the Nepali Congress, the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal or the Samajbadi Party Nepal.
The Samajbadi Party has demanded the post of Deputy Speaker, as it is a government partner, but the ruling party may attempt to woo the Rastriya Janata Party, which quit the government in March this year. The party has since been warning of protests if the constitution is not amended in line with its demands. Rajendra Mahato, a senior Rastriya Janata Party leader, told the Post that his party has not received any offer from the government side yet.
According to a leader from the Samajbadi Party, party Chairman Upendra Yadav recently met with the prime minister to discuss the matter.
“As a government partner, it is natural for us to stake a claim to the post of Deputy Speaker if the ruling party wants to take the Speaker’s post,” the leader told the Post on condition of anonymity, saying that they are still some way from a deal. “It is likely that we will get the post of Deputy Speaker.”
The Samajbadi Party’s confidence also stems from the fact that it could threaten to quit the government and join hands with the Rastriya Janata Party to launch protests.
The primary opposition Nepali Congress too has been eyeing one of the two posts. Senior Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel raised the issue on Wednesday at a tea reception organised by the Nepal Communist Party.
“As per the constitutional provision, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker should represent two different parties. To make that happen, the Nepali Congress will continue to put pressure [on the government],” said Poudel.
The situation, however, can get more complicated if the incumbent Deputy Speaker refuses to step down. According to Tumbahangphe’s aide, during her meeting with the prime minister, she did not appear willing to step down.
“She asked Oli why she has to pay for a crime that Mahara committed,” the aide told the Post.
Tumbahangphe also asked Oli to set an example by electing a woman Speaker at a time when all the provincial assemblies have male chief ministers and speakers.
“Oli said he would talk to party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and discuss the matter at the party’s secretariat meeting,” said the aide.
Tumbahangphe is being offered a ministerial berth in return for her resignation, but she does not want to become a minister, said the aide.
Tumbahangphe holds a PhD in political science and has been actively involved in politics through the CPN-UML since 1990. She was a central committee member of the Nepal Communist Party before she was elected to the post of Deputy Speaker.
Anil Giri contributed reporting.