New committee deemed anti-constitutional

Nepal’s Constitution allows elected people’s representatives to run the government for five years. Those who fail to get elected do not have a mandate in governing, policy or law-making positions.

Yet, the present five-party coalition has set up an 11-member ‘High-Level Political Coordination Committee’ to be a kind of parallel government, and what is more significant-- it is made up mostly of politicians who lost the 2017 elections.

“Elevating unelected officials to positions of power is against the principles of democracy, and it turns the whole electoral process into a farce,” says political analyst Puranjan Acharya. “It is also unlawful, and against the Constitution.”

Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress (NC) lost his electoral seat in Tanahu in the 2017 elections to Krishna Kumar Shrestha of the UML. Shrestha is now with the CPN Unified Socialists (US) and serves as Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.

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For his part, Poudel is now coordinator of the new Committee that will now be directing Minister Shrestha on policy matters.

The five parties in the governing coalition formed the Committee at a meeting on 8 November, and it also includes two other prominent losers from 2017: Narayan Kaji Shrestha of the Maoist Centre (MC) and Krishna Prasad Sitaula of the NC.

Sitaula had lost to the RPP candidate from Jhapa, and Shrestha had lost in Gorkha to Baburam Bhattarai of the erstwhile Naya Shakti Party.       

According to Nepal’s model of parliamentary democracy, the people’s elected representatives in the Federal Parliament chose a candidate to be prime minister for five years. The prime minister is answerable to Parliament.

But now, elected MPs who are now ministers in the coalition government will be taking their cue not from Parliament, but from this 10-member group of unelected leaders.

Civil society activists say that despite devolution of political power in the 2017 Constitution to provincial and municipal assemblies, it is still a few men at the top of the main political parties who call the shots. This is evident in the way provincial governments have all changed leadership after K P Oli of the UML stepped down in July and was replaced by Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC.

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“The formation of this extra-constitutional Committee is nothing new, it just reflects what was apparent all along – that it is the party chieftains who are more powerful than an elected government,” says activist Sushil Pyakurel.

The 11 members of the Committee will take up the coordinator’s role in two-month rotations. Besides Poudel, Sitaula and Shrestha, the other members of the Committee include Madhav Kumar Nepal (US), Pushpa Kamal Dahal (MC), Upendra Yadav (JSP) as well as Chitrea Bahadur KC and Durga Poudel of the Rastriya Janamorcha. It also includes the Minister of Communication and Information Gyanendra Bahadur Karki of the NC.

Interestingly, both Poudel and Sitaula are in the dissident group against Deuba in the NC.  Two more members from the US and JSP will be added to the Committee later.

Other political analysts go even further to say that the Committee is actually a parallel government made up of unelected politicians. Says political analyst Bhimarjun Acharya: “This is blatantly anti-constitutional and anti-democratic. In our system of government, only elected officials can have a governing role. It is a joke.”