In search of the main opposition

Devendra Gautam

Devendra Gautam

In search of the main opposition

Whatever decision the parliament secretariat takes regarding the main opposition, it won’t be without controversy, that’s a given

The new House of Representatives (HoR) has found some important business, right after its first meeting post-Nov 20 elections.

The business came on Saturday in the form of competing claims for the powerful position of the main opposition, from the Nepali Congress and the Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party.

In terms of numbers, the Congress (the largest party in the parliament, with 88 members) has a huge advantage over the NWPP, which has 1 member in the parliament.

But the Congress vote for the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government in the Jan 10 vote of confidence has deemed it ineligible for helming the opposition bench, if legal provisions and comments from the constitutional-legal fraternity are any guide.

The Act on Salary and Facilities for Office-bearers and Members of the Federal Parliament, 2073 recognizes a party having 10 percent or more lawmakers in the HoR or the National Assembly as the opposition party. But the act comes with a caveat. It stipulates that such a party should neither be part of the Council of Ministers nor should it have supported Cabinet formation.

Sub-section 2 of sub-clause (e) of the Act implies: If more than one parties having 10 percent or more seats in the HoR or the NA have equal number of seats, then the parties shall recognize a party as the opposition (in the respective chambers) through mutual consent.

As such is not the case, the Speaker’s prerogative, enshrined in sub-clause 3 of the Act, comes into play here.

It implies: If there’s no written mutual consent or if no party other than the one in the Cabinet or supporting it has 10 percent members in the HoR or the NA, the NA Chair or the Speaker should designate the opposition party (in the two chambers, respectively).

On this very ground, the NWPP is staking its claim.

Prem Suwal, the NWPP lawmaker, on Saturday demanded in writing that the parliament declare it the main opposition as it is the first and the largest among the parties that did not vote for the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government.

While speaking at the first meeting of the House on Thursday, Suwal demanded, citing federal laws, that parliament proceedings should commence only after designating the main opposition.

Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya says: By voting for the government, the Nepali Congress has lost political, moral and constitutional bases to be the main opposition.

He says making the Congress the main opposition will set a bad precedent.

Senior lawmaker and National Assembly member Radheshyam Adhikari preferred not to comment on the matter, saying he was studying the developments.

All this means that the ball has landed in the Speaker’s court.

Responding to claims from the Congress and the NWPP for the coveted position, the parliament secretariat has said it will make a decision on the basis of prevailing laws and regulations.

Whatever decision the secretariat takes, it will not be without controversy, that’s a given.