KATHMANDU, April 24: With the two largest parties in the Constituent Assembly— UCPN (Maoist) and NC— sticking for long to their respective positions for a directly-elected presidential system and a parliamentary system, the mixed French model was often referred to as the meeting point between the two parties and seen as a possible future system of governance for Nepal.
But as the negotiations have progressed apace, the country is headed for the less talked about Finnish model, with some modifications to suit the current balance of powers in Nepali politics.
French vs Finnish models
The so-called mixed French model, in which the president and the prime minister share power, is in effect an executive presidential model.
In the French model, the popularly elected president nominates the prime minister and the council of ministers, and presides over the latter. In this model, the prime minister is often subservient to the president since the latter can remove the former, as can parliament.
In contrast, the Finnish model, where the president and prime minister share power, is in effect a parliamentary system and parliament is the supreme authority that can elect and remove the prime minister and override presidential vetoes. The current Finnish constitution that took effect in March 2000 and was revised in 2012, has greatly strengthened the prime minister at the expense of the president.
The president directs national security and foreign affairs, while the prime minister has primary responsibility for all other areas, including the day-to-day running of the government and issues concerning the European Union.
Details being worked out
In the behind-the-scene negotiations taking place primarily between the UCPN (Maoist) and NC, the details of power sharing between president and prime minister are being worked out.
While the NC negotiators are trying to limit the powers of the popularly-elected president to the greatest extent possible, the Maoist leadership is seeking just the opposite: To maximize presidential powers.
What has complicated the negotiations, among other things, is the nature and scope of Nepal’s defense and foreign policies, which in Finland are traditionally handled by the directly elected president, leaving day-to-day governance to the prime minister.
“Because of the limited scope of Nepal’s defense and foreign policy, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is seeking to expand the role of the presidency,” said a leader involved in the negotiations.
Leaders said it’s still unclear how power will be divided between the prime minister and the president but “one thing is sure--the president’s powers will be defined and limited by the constitution.”
Finnish model can address problem of “dual legitimacy”
Unlike in the strictly presidential system, where executive power is concentrated exclusively in the hands of the directly elected president, the Finnish model can address the trap of “dual legitimacy” that will be created in case of a fractured legislature.
In Nepal’s current power equation, the next legislature is also likely to be a fractured one, with no single party electing a majority of the lawmakers. In that scenario, a popularly-elected president, who has exclusive control of the executive, could face stiff opposition from a coalition of parties that control a majority of votes in the legislature. And both the president and the opposition in the legislature can then claim legitimacy, thus leading to constitutional paralysis.
If the directly-elected president’s party fails to win a majority in parliament he/she will face extreme difficulty in passing the party’s polices and the budget through the legislature.
However, in the Finnish model as in the parliamentary system, the legislature elects the prime minister, who enjoys the support of a majority of the lawmakers.
In the Finnish model, it’s also possible that president and prime minister will belong to the same coalition of parties, something which will greatly lower the possibility of any friction between the two.