Speaking about the SpeakerParty leaders have made a joke out of the democratic process.
Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, in a rare move, seems to be disregarding parental advice to play safe and is standing up for what she believes in—that she is an apt choice for the position of Speaker. But the party top brass—consisting of men of all shapes and sizes—are having a hard time stomaching this. So much so that the ruling party co-chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal asked Tumbahangphe to step down, even though she does not belong to any political party, so that they can put the man of their choice in the coveted position. With Oli and Dahal deciding everything in the party, the leadership has made a joke out of the democratic process that is supposed to be guiding its decisions.
For the past four months, the House of Representatives is without a Speaker because of the indecision of the ruling Nepal Communist Party which has failed to decide on Speaker candidate. Last month, the second meeting of the winter session of the Lower House was scheduled to start the process to elect its Speaker—a position that has remained vacant following Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s resignation on early October after he was charged with attempted rape. And on Sunday, the scheduled House meeting was postponed again owing to indecision in the ruling party.
Clearly, the ongoing row in the ruling party over the post of Speaker and Tumbahangphe represents the patriarchal mindset that prevails in Nepali politics. Nepali culture demands women to remain submissive to men, and this regressive school of thought extends even to the political sphere. Conventionally, Nepali women have had a limited role in political leadership. They exhibited solid representation during People's Movement I in 1990, and a notable number of women participated in People's Movement II in 2006, too, which contributed to the abolition of the monarchy and the declaration of Nepal as a federal democratic republic. Despite their impressive participation and contribution in politics, they have not been able to come out into the limelight as leaders.
The ongoing saga about the Speaker tells us two things: One, that the 33 percent reservation policy enshrined in the constitution to ensure women’s participation is still largely limited to mere tokenism; and two, that the co-chairs of the Nepal Communist Party are on their way to getting rid of all democratic processes and practices. The sun, which once used to be a sign of forging heat, is now slowly becoming a melting heat.
The Nepal Communist Party must not hold Parliament hostage any longer and appoint someone to the post of the Speaker as soon as possible. Subas Nembang, who has previously held the post five times and is the top choice of KP Sharma Oli, and Agni Sapkota, another top choice of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are both men who have served the government in some capacity or the other. Tumbahangphe is in no way less deserving than them, and the party should not be reluctant to elevate the deputy speaker to the position of Speaker.
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