Highlights of the Discussion on Electoral system and Forms of Government in the New Constitution held on 15th July at CCD
A barnstorming session on Electoral System and Forms of Government in the new constitution was organized by Supreme Court Bar association with the support of CCD/UNDP on 15 July 2011 at Centre for Constitutional Dialogue, CCD. A total of 53 participants mostly lawyer, CA members and Civil society representative participated in the interaction. The program was aimed at creating an environment and develops a common point to resolve the differences that could be acceptable to the contesting political forces.
Nepal Bar Association president Prem Bahadur Khadka said that the timely resolution of the conflicting issues like electoral system, forms of government and restructuring of state determines the fate of constitution making. Khadka said, “The parliamentary form of government is suitable in Nepal as the presidential system leads to dictatorship. Citing the example of Srilanka, he strongly favored the parliamentary form of government.
International Project Manager of SPCBN-UNDP Rohan Edrisinha said that Nepal should feel proud about adopting the most complex process of writing constitution. “It is easy to make constitution by the group of experts but that lacks the legitimacy and larger ownership of people .Therefore, there is no need to lose heart as progress will be made in near future drafting a new constitution reflection the dreams and aspiration of people in the new constitution.”
Speaking on the issue of forms of government, Edrisinha argued that semi presidential could be the middle path, though there are certain dangers adopting the hybrid system. Advocates of presidential system highlight on stability and advocates of parliamentary system highlight on accountability. Giving an example of his home country’s experience, Edrisinha said that too much stability also leads to dictatorship. “In Srilanka, present president is not only a president, but also holds the major power ministries. Therefore, balance of power between president and prime minister is important.”
Advocate Purna Man Shakya presented his paper on Forms of Government where he highlighted the major obstacles of constitution making process. “Since there is a strong position between contesting forces, namely UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress on presidential system and parliamentary system, we have to find a compromise model. Most likely the mixed system like in France can be the compromise model. The debate in the sub-committee within constitutional committee is also leading to the mixed system.
Shakya said that the clear division of power between president and prime minister is most crucial. Otherwise there could be conflict between two institutions. “Day to day administration should be given to prime minister and the president should have a check and balance role.” He also presented a list of check and balance provisions to share power between the President and Prime Minister for the stable and accountable government. Shakya also said that since there will be a federal structure of state, central government will have limited area of work as the most of the administrative power can be exercised by provincial government.
Election Commissioner Nilakhanta Upreti made a micro review of all the electoral systems that Nepal had applied to date and said that whatever the electoral system we will be adopting we have to ensure that it is democratic as more and more people participate in the process and there will be representation from all section of society including sex, caste, ethnicity, regions etc. Based on his observation and experiences also applied in different countries, for Nepal, he opinioned the Multimember proportional representation (MMPR) will both maintain the inclusion and First past the post (FPTP) concept.
Reminding three major disputed with CA: forms of government, electoral system and state restructuring, Professor Krishna Khanal argued that mix system is proposed as a compromise at least to bring the draft constitution. "I need a constitution, so I accept the mixed system. We can not compromise democracy but we can compromise on the forms of government" he added. Regarding electoral system, he opined that our electoral system should be inclusive as major marginalized communities could not be able to compete. We need to harmonize between principles and political realities.
Malla K. Sunder opined that the major issue of today is whether we are ready to change the state structure that is guided by domination, discrimination and disparity. Now, majority of marginalized and excluded people want to change this state. Thus we want forms of government that guarantees inclusive and proportional system. This is the major aspect to be taken into consideration while choosing forms of government.
Dr. Bipin Adhikari told that mixed system is also a workable solution if Maoist reconsiders the issue of division of power, provision of opposition and recall system. Regarding electoral system, FPTP system is the most important. We can add other model on it to ensure the representation form all section of society. Therefore, Multi Member Constituency could be an option
Dr. Chandra Kanta Gyawali was in the opinion that mix model may increase the conflict between president and prime minister. Whatever model we adopt, government should be strong, accountable, transparent and stable.
The following issues were raised during floor discussion
• Any form of government is workable provided the intent is good.
• How to ensure the representation of minority group like Raute is the most pertinent issue of electoral system.
• If the debate is heading towards favoring the parliamentary model, the electoral system should be designed as such that the majority is obtained by parties otherwise it will be a hung parliament all the time.
• Reform in parliamentary system could also be an option
• Value of liberty, equality and fertinity are the basis of social democracy. Social democracy is the basis for political democracy. We have to look at those issues while we are talking about state restructuring, forms of government and electoral system.
• Democracy is the best form of government, so no need to go for compromise model in the name of fusion.
• In case of dissolution of parliament, the provision of reinstatement of parliament could be incorporated in case the timely proposed election could not be held for the stability in system.
• Awareness of poor and excluded people is the most important aspect.
The program was concluded with the sharing that there can be compromise on forms of government and electoral system but not in democracy and the following two points are proposed before the political parties as possible options for consensus.
1. Mixed model of the government;
2. The MMPR electoral system
On the basis of this common understanding, SC Bar has plan to interact with top level political leaders on the aforementioned issues very soon to help them developing consensus on the contested issues.