Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Arguing For Executive Presidency

Mukti Rijal

The Socialist Party Nepal (Samajbadi Dal Nepal) in the plenary meeting of the Federal Council (Sanghiya Parishad), a powerful deliberative organ of the party, has reaffirmed its demand for a shift from the present Westminster style prime ministerial governance system to executive presidency directly elected by the people. Moreover, the party has demanded for a national parliament elected through Proportional Representation (PR) in place of the mixed electoral system that is constitutionally provided in Nepal. The mixed model of electoral system does indeed hybridise both proportional and First Past The Post (FPTP) mode of the election.
The Constitution allocates 155 seats of the total 265 seats to the FPTP mode while 110 seats go to the PR mode in the federal parliament of Nepal. Similarly, mixed model electoral system has been adopted for election of Pradesh Sabha (state assemblies) in which some percentage of seats are reserved for proportional representation while others are provided for first past the post model euphemistically known as majority system. It is so provided that one seat for federal parliament is equivalent to two seats for Pradesh Sabha and the electoral constituencies are demarcated accordingly. This indicates that the state assemblies are allotted members in proportion to the number of seats for federal parliament in a district.
The constitution specifies that sixty per cent of the members should be elected from the first past the post system and forty per cent through the party list proportional representation system. Women should account for one third of total members elected from each party. In fact, two types of elections are instituted in Nepal. These are parallel mixed voting comprising FPTP and PR for federal parliament and state assemblies and the completely FPTP for local election.
The current mode of elections in Nepal has been blamed for both creating political instability and also making the electoral contest very expensive. It is said to be responsible for engendering corruption and misappropriation of national resources. The political party leaders and lawmakers set their sight to amass resources at their disposal even through illicit means so that winning the next elections becomes easier and convenient.This fact has been mentioned in the report presented at the plenary meeting of Samajbadi Dal too as its leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has argued that proportional representation electoral mode should replace the existing majority system not only to make polls economic and cost effective but also democratically representative and robust without allowing the single votes cast in the polls to go waste.
As mentioned above, another important plank of the Samajbadi Dal Nepal like many other political groups and leaders today has been the directly elected executive presidency since the presidential form of the government was needed to mitigate the festering problem of the political instability and consolidate national unity in the country. Though in the elections held two years ago, we have maintained political predictability and stability with Nepal Communist party commanding almost two thirds majority in the national parliament, this may not be the case in the future elections given the type of the electoral model we have put in place. In fact, the country had been badly affected in the past due to the political instability and sustained bickering marked by the frequent changes of the government.The frequent change in the set of the executive chief and ministers for the last several years and decades in the past had yielded adverse impacts in political, social and economic development of the country.
Even today there is a strong and critical constituency of intelligentsia, political leaders and civil society organisations that sees the directly elected presidency as the appropriate solution to the intriguing political instability and producing adverse ramification in the development of the country. But self-serving and compromising tendencies of the political leaders failed the agenda of the executive presidency allowing room for parliamentary model to secure an important place in the constitution of the country.
The issue of the directly elected executive head was in fact abandoned during the time of promulgation of new constitution in September 2015. The then Maoists had advocated for the directly elected president and accepted the constitution with some reservations. Accordingly, the erstwhile CPN (UML) had put forth its stance in favour of directly elected prime minister. Not only this, there was reportedly an overwhelming majority of the support from people in favour of the proposition for directly elected head of the government as indicated by the submissions and suggestions from the citizens in the constituent assembly. But the political parties especially like the erstwhile Maoists and UML had abandoned this agenda and sought concurrence with Nepali Congress on Parliamentary model of governance.
The parties had thus missed the opportunity to give the historic turn to the polity of the country. In fact, as reported, when the political parties had been locked in the debate to choose the form of the government, there was a possibility of agreement among the political stakeholders on the presidential model had its advocates made a needed push for it in an arduous manner. Bu they compromised on this agenda and lent their support to the continuity of the parliamentary model. Political leaders are short-sighted, and therefore tend to make compromise on principles for short term gains and benefits at the expense of long term political goal.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. He can be reached at