Undermining the powers of parliament

Parliament

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Political parties use parliament to make, sustain or break the government but the same political parties have rarely allowed parliament to function as per the wishes of the general people who vote their representatives to that sovereign space.

As a matter of fact, change in the government has come to mean manipulating, undermining and downgrading parliament’s function, powers and business.

The obstruction facing the House of Representatives in recent days is a fresh case in point.

Beginning on September 8, four consecutive meetings of the Lower House were held on September 8,10,12 and 14. All the meetings faced continuous obstruction from the main opposition CPN-UML. The lawmakers from the party chanted slogans against the Speaker, which compelled him to postpone the meeting repeatedly. 

Following the obstruction of the House on September 14, the meeting has been postponed to September 20. The meeting was slated to endorse the budget on the very day. But it failed to do so. 

The parliament could not endorse the replacement bill, and now the government is restricted to spend from the state coffers. For the first time in the history of Nepal, Nepal has witnessed a financial deadlock. Some critics have called it a ‘government shutdown.’ 

Not only the ordinance related to the budget, but 11 other ordinances–most of them brought by K P Oli’s government–became passive from Thursday. None of them could proceed during the four meetings. 

Even the ordinance related to Covid-19 has become passive now, though the danger of the pandemic has not faded yet. Failure to endorse it will impact the vaccination process. 

As per Article 114 of the Constitution, to activate the ordinances, they should be endorsed by both Houses of Parliament within 60 days. The Deuba government tabled those 11 ordinances during the first meeting of the House of Representatives on July 18, which now stand invalid, due to the failure of parliament to endorse them.

Political analysts say this is an egregious case of the ruling and opposition parties undermining and weakening parliament. 

Political analyst Dr Indra Adhikari says that the existing political culture is the reason behind the failure of parliament to work effectively. “In Parliament, the lawmakers don’t use their discretion in case of important discussions on crucial matters. On one hand, they claim themselves to be representatives and servants of people, and on the other, they merely act as the puppets of their leaders,” she said. 

How political parties, ruling as well as opposition, have held the sovereign parliament hostage for their petty political interests.

A single leader can manipulate many lawmakers, which obstructs the parliament’s function and decision-making. “Party lawmakers seldom challenge their main leaders even if the leaders are wrong and they are working to serve their vested interests,” Adhikari added. According to her, big leaders have used the proportional representation system to serve their interests. “Prominent leaders bring their lawmakers into the House, to increase their influence. This has further downgraded the value of the parliament.”

Speaking to Nepal Live Today, Nepali Congress leader Uday Shamsher Rana also agreed that the quality and charm of the parliament have deteriorated. “The debate and discussions that should be held in parliament are not seen to be held there nowadays,” he added. 

Parliament should be the place to seriously discuss public issues and sort out national problems. But it has time and again been manipulated by a handful of leaders.

It should be noted that the main opposition which has now been obstructing parliament proceedings, and which is partly responsible for the budget holiday crisis, was in favor of cutting short the life of this parliament.

UML chief K P Sharma Oli, who was the prime minister at the time, dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20, 2020, which was reinstated by the Supreme Court on February 23, 2021. Later he sought to become the PM through the same House, which he again dissolved on May 22, which was again reinstated by the Supreme Court on July 12.

Sher Bahadur Deuba is the PM today from parliament which his predecessor–K P Oli–dissolved twice, which the Supreme Court reinstated.

Now the same parliament has been made dysfunctional because of the obstruction from the main opposition and the failure of the ruling party to break the logjam over the matter.

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