House meet put off as NCP fails to decide on SpeakerThe Lower House from its very first meeting of the winter session on December 20 was supposed to start the Speaker election process.
The House of Representatives has become a hostage to the indecision of Nepal Communist Party which has failed to pick its candidate for the Speaker.
The second meeting of the winter session of the Lower House on Friday was scheduled to start the process to elect its Speaker, the position that is vacant following Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s resignation on October 1 after he was charged with rape attempts. The Parliament Secretariat had published its tentative schedule which included the commencement of election process for the Speaker. However, the meeting was called off till Wednesday issuing a notice which said the House was postponed for “some technical reasons”.
The Lower House from its very first meeting of the winter session on December 20 was supposed to start the Speaker election process. The meeting, however, was adjourned shortly after endorsing the condolence motions of four former lawmakers, as the ruling party was not ready with its candidate for the Speaker.
“Friday’s meeting was supposed to begin the election of the new Speaker,” Pushpa Bhusal, Nepali Congress whip, told the Post. “The internal dispute within the ruling party led to the meeting’s postponement.”
As Mahara became Speaker from then CPN (Maoist Centre) before the party merger, the Maoist faction within the NCP wants the position again. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who represents CPN-UML camp, however, is in favour of giving the job to former Speaker Subash Nembang.
The differences between the two factions have led to the indecision within the ruling party. At the moment, they don’t seem to find a common candidate for the Speaker. Asked why hasn’t the NCP been able to pick its candidate, the party’s spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the candidate would be ready once the election process begins.
“We will ready our candidate by the time the Lower House starts the election process,” he told the Post.
The officials at the Parliament Secretariat said the NCP sought a few days time to find its Speaker’s candidate.
The NCP leaders say though Oli has strongly pushed for Nembang, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, party’s executive chairman, wants Agni Prasad Sapkota to become the Speaker. The leaders from the Maoist faction have been urging Dahal not to succumb to Oli’s pressure.
“To my knowledge, Dahal has not agreed to Oli’s proposal. It is natural for the Maoist camp to demand the position,” a Standing Committee member of the party told the Post on the condition of anonymity as he wasn’t allowed to talk to the media.
The leaders of the ruling party say, Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, too, is strongly lobbying for the position.
She has been arguing that she cannot be “made a scapegoat” for the mistake Mahara committed. As the constitution prohibits a single party to hold two positions in Parliament, Tumbahangphe needs to quit to clear the way for her party to get the Speaker’s post.
The NCP’s chief whip Dev Gurung said the party has already asked her to quit to pave the way for the party to field its candidate.
“The Speaker’s election cannot proceed unless Tumbahangphe resigns,” he told the Post. “I am hoping there won’t be a further delay in the election.”
Tumbahangphe, however, doesn’t buy Gurung’s statement.
In a statement issued by her secretariat, she has claimed that her resignation has nothing to do with the postponement of Friday’s House meeting.
“I am no barrier to Speaker’s election. I am ready to quit at any moment,” reads the statement.
The political experts say the differences over the Speaker’s candidacy show the NCP is yet to consummate the merger. They say though Oli has been claiming there are no factional rifts, the differences persist.
“It is clear that the UML and Maoist are yet to become one,” Shyam Shrestha, former editor of Mulyankan Monthly who follows left politics, told the Post. “The factional differences is the only reason for the delay in finding a common candidate for the Speaker.”