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Opinion

Upper House redundant if quirks continue

Dr. Bipin Adhikari

Dr. Bipin Adhikari

 |  Kathmandu

The relevance of the National Assembly in Nepal is determined by two conditions. First, it is the Upper House of the federal parliament. This is also known as the House of Experts or the Assembly of Seasoned Legislators.

This is called the matured assembly as experts from various walks of life assemble here. It is believed that they are mature from the point of age, experience, and expertise.

The House of Representatives is the Lower House of lawmakers who come to the parliament after being elected directly from their respective constituencies or national constituency in the case of proportional election. They had made promises to the voters during the election campaigns. Hence, they tailor their decisions, accordingly, to meet the needs of the voters.

As the NA lawmakers are not directly elected by the voters, they do not have to face the pressure from the voters and the election manifesto to the same extent. Even if they face it, it is relatively low given the wider constituency.   

Hence, lawmakers of the Upper House can use their discretion on any issue. They can present their arguments based on their experiences, and expertise rising above the partisan interest. 

Therefore, it is believed that the Upper House has the power to help correct errors or misleading decisions taken by the House of Representatives.

To promote federalism is another reason why the National Assembly is required as our electoral system is also based on federalism. The constituency of the lawmakers of the National Assembly except those nominated by the President is the province itself where they belong to.

The representatives of the province and the local units (municipalities and rural municipalities) are the electorates. This will connect the center, province, and local units. Further, the Upper House is necessary even for inclusive representation in our country which is pluralistic in nature.

Politicians are important, but it is also necessary in a democracy to represent those who cannot contest elections or cannot win even if they fight the elections. It is necessary to include experts, specialists in particular fields, and those who do not like to contest elections under the election symbols of any party. Such seasoned professionals are necessary to be nominated as lawmakers in the National Assembly.

This practice of forming alliances even in the electoral system which is based on single transferable votes is wrong. It is a kind of 'match fixing' in a modern term.

We have adopted the proportional representation system in both the House of Representatives and Provincial Assemblies.

It will further bolster inclusive practices as the number of members in the lower house is comparatively larger. The larger the numerical size, the greater the participation of diverse communities will be, even though there is a lot of room to improve in the proportional system. This system is not bad in itself but its efficacy also depends on the intention of the users.

Although the NA is not necessary for inclusiveness, it is necessary for federalism. However, if we continue to practice the way we are doing currently, the National Assembly loses its relevance.

While filing candidacies, neither did we consider expertise nor did we include those missed out in the House of Representatives. Rather the Upper House was used to recruit those rejected by the people through elections.

It is a matter of simple ethics that one who loses elections has to wait at least five years to contest the next election. Preference was given to those controversial figures, mired in disputes, and those who had to be placated or adjusted in some places by the leadership. Why do we need the NA to make it just a recruitment center for such tainted figures and party cadres? 

Nepal had exercised a bicameral parliamentary system – the House of Representatives and Mahasabha following the elections in 2014 BS as well. Then Prime Minister BP Koirala briefed about the Upper House given the possibility of monopolization by the palace while nominating lawmakers to Mahasabha.

BP had also said that the Upper House is not the place to stockpile those rejected by the people through elections. Experts from the deprived areas and communities who have contributed to various fields in society should be nominated to this Upper House, he had clearly stated.

Finally, after rigorous discussions, he reached an understanding of the criteria for nomination. This can be read in his autobiography.

Party alliances in the elections to the National Assembly became another anomalous practice.

This practice of forming alliances even in the electoral system which is based on single transferable votes is wrong. It is a kind of 'match fixing' in a modern term.

If this anomalous practice continues, we are compelled to say that the National Assembly is not necessary.

The leaders seem to be treating every position of the state as a means of political management, and distribution, and as an opportunity to fulfill the demands and aspirations of their party cadres.

This not only weakens the National Assembly but also lowers the dignity of the Upper House.

(Based on conversation)



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