Parties start debate on number of federal states, members of federal parliament
As the Himalayan nation prepares to embrace federalism, political parties busy in drafting new constitution here have stepped up debate over the number of federal states and parliamentarians in the federal legislature.
While the major parties floated a proposal to have two-tier legislature with a total number of 385 parliamentarians including 60 in the upper house, the parties have stood at odd over the number of federal states. However, the parties under pressure from different ethnic groups to have identity-based federal states have made an understanding to limit the number of federal states between six to ten.
Three major parties – UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML—along with United Democratic Madhesi Front on Tuesday floated a proposal to have a bicameral parliament with 325 members in the lower house and 60 members in the upper house. While 180 members of the lower house would be directly elected, 145 others will come through a proportional electoral system as per the proposal of major parties to have 55:45 ratio between the first past the post system and the proportional representational system.
Likewise, 50 of the total 60 members in the upper house will come from provincial assembly and 10 others will be nominated by president from among eminent personalities in the country.
Leaders from various different parties, however, have criticized the proposed strength of federal parliament, saying that such a jumbo parliament would not be viable for a small country like Nepal. They have also argued that it would be appropriate to determine the number of members in the federal parliament only after arriving at an agreement on the number of federal states and number of parliamentarians in each federal unit.
A meeting of Nepali Congress, the second largest party in the Constituent Assembly, on Wednesday asked the party leadership to put in efforts to make the federal parliament as small as possible. The party suggested that it would be appropriate to have around 200 members in the lower house and 60 members in the upper house.
Leaders from the third largest party in the Constituent Assembly, CPN-UML, have also voiced similar concerns.
As the parties remain under pressure from various ethnic groups to ensure identity-based federal states, they are finding difficult to determine the number of federal states. The parties are expected to arrive at a consensus on the number and name of each federal state in next two days.
“There are different proposals of different parties. But we have agreed in principle that there should not be more than eight federal states,” said CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal, who is involved in the inter-party negotiation.
Nepal remained unitary and secular Hindu state for over 240 years after the late king Prithivi Narayan Shah unified various small kingdoms into one.
Political parties that came into power following a success of 19-day long mass movement in 2006 had announced through an interim constitution to embrace federal structure to meet growing aspirations of different ethnic groups marginalized for years by the state.
With the fast approaching deadline of May 27 to promulgate a new constitution, a 601-member Constituent Assembly elected through an election held in April 2008 is current drafting a new constitution of the country.
- Asian Tribune –