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Debate on electoral system

Debate on electoral system

During the constitution drafting process from 2008 to 2015, the electoral system emerged as a key contentious issue among major political parties and stakeholders. Various electoral systems practiced in different countries were proposed. Ultimately they compromised on a mixed electoral system combining first past the post (FPTP) and proportional representation voting system. The aim was to address demands for inclusion and proportional representation across society. Since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, which solidified this mixed model, two elections for the three-tier government have been held, with parties preparing for the next elections in 2027, pending any unforeseen circumstances.

Ever since the country adopted a new constitution in 2015, no single party has secured a majority to govern the country independently. Although there was a single-party majority following the merger of CPN (Maoist Center) and CPN-UML, it was not a result of the election. With no possibility of single-party majority, parties have turned to coalition governments, resulting in frequent and unpredictable changes. Many, both within and outside active politics, attribute this political instability to the current electoral system, suggesting that Nepal cannot achieve stability unless changes are made.

Senior Nepali Congress leader Shekhar Koirala has been a vocal advocate for changing the electoral system, proposing that the House of Representatives (lower house), consisting of 275 members, be elected solely through the FPTP model to ensure a single-party majority and political stability. However, his own party, NC, has not officially discussed changing the electoral system. Koirala argues that the root cause of the current political crisis lies in the electoral system itself.

Despite Koirala’s proposal, cross-party political leaders and experts argue that changing the electoral system, which is closely linked to inclusion, a fundamental aspect of the constitution, is nearly impossible. The proportional representation system has ensured the representation of marginalized communities in the legislative process, although political parties have been criticized for appointing their family members. Santosh Pariyar, chief whip of Rastriya Swatantra Party, vehemently opposes changing the current electoral system, considering it a violation of the constitution and a threat to the rights of marginalized communities.

Deepak Bhatta, a CPN-UML leader, contends that once a system is adopted, it should be allowed to function for at least 15-20 years before considering changes. He criticizes the shifting political agendas of leaders and emphasizes the need for stability in governance. However, past experiences have shown that even single-party majority governments have failed to complete their terms due to intra-party disputes, casting doubt on the correlation between electoral systems and political stability.

While major political parties such as Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, and CPN (Maoist Center) have yet to officially discuss constitutional amendments, there are various viewpoints within each party. The issue of electoral system change must be carefully considered, as it requires consensus among major political parties, including those representing Madhes. Until political parties address systemic issues and work towards genuine consensus, achieving political stability will remain a distant goal, with electoral system changes alone unlikely to suffice.