KATHMANDU, April 25: After a series of negotiations over the past few days, top leaders from major political parties have reached an understanding on the total strength and form of the federal legislature.
As per an understanding reached on Tuesday, the major parties --UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and United Democratic Madhesi Front -- have floated a proposal for a two-tier legislature comprising a total of 325 members in the lower house or House of Representatives and 60 members in an upper house.
While 180 of the lower house members will be directly elected, 145 others will come through a proportional electoral system as per a proposal floated by the major parties for a 55:45 ratio between the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and the proportional representation quota.
Likewise, 50 of the total 60 members of the upper house will come from provincial houses and 10 others will be nominated by the president from among eminent personalities.
Though there were differing proposals on the number of members in each provincial assembly, such as 35 and 50, the parties are yet to decide on a number. A meeting scheduled for Wednesday is expected to arrive at a consensus on the issue.
The major parties had floated the two-tier legislature proposal among the fringe parties represented in the Constituent Assembly during an all-party meeting held Tuesday afternoon and sought their suggestions. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and top leaders from other parties briefed the leaders from the small political parties.
Leaders from the small political parties have, however, expressed their reservations over the proposal tabled by the major parties for reducing the percentage of lawmakers to be elected under the proportional representation system.
The Interim Constitution has ensured the election of 58 percent of lawmakers under the proportional system and the CA members were elected accordingly during the CA polls. “We expressed our reservations, finding that it was a regressive proposal, because they have even reduced the percentage for the proportional representative system from the existing ratio, far from increasing it,” Prem Bahadur Singh of Samajbadi Janata Party told Republica.
CP Mainali of CPN-ML said a majority of those from small parties airing their views at the meeting stressed that the members to be elected under proportional quota should not be less than 50 percent.
On system of governance, the major parties are close to consensus on adopting a mixed system in which executive powers will be shared between a popularly-elected president and a parliament-elected prime minister. “But we alerted the leaders of big parties that such a system may invite unnecessary friction between the head of state and the head of government,” said Mainali.
The major parties also informed the other parties about agreements reached on forming a constitutional court for a limited period of five years and about the understanding reached with regard to citizenship.
Though the leaders have agreed in principle not to include any provision in the new statute that is discriminatory against women with regard to citizenship, they have also agreed to a seven to nine years residence requirement for a foreigner marrying a Nepali woman, in order to acquire Nepali citizenship.
Talking to media persons, NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel said they will hold further discussions on system of governance and federal structure during a meeting of major parties slated for Wednesday morning. “Since the issues are linked to each other we will try to arrive at a consensus on both issues together,” he said.
Before the all-party meeting, the Maoists, NC and UML held an internal meeting at the CA building at New Baneshwar to seek the opinions of leaders of the respective parties. NC is scheduled to hold a joint meeting of both its CWC and Parliamentary Party Wednesday to set out a bottom line with regard to federalism and system of governance.
A senior NC leader said they will hold discussions on how many federal provinces the NC can accomodate in view of proposals for up to 10 federal provinces against the party’s official stance of six provinces so far. There are also differences on the names of the proposed federal provinces.