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Election Commission And Cabinet Expansion

Issue October 2017

Election Commission And Cabinet Expansion

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Election Commission (EC) used its prerogative to let Prime Minister Deuba expand his cabinet. It has been a controversy. Nepalese intellectuals and media have been commenting differently depending on their knowledge of the politics and election code of conduct, and related law on the actions of both the EC and the prime minister.


EC has been advocating once the election code of conduct has been effective the government, political parties, political leaders and their cadre and other politicians need to strictly follow the code and should not speak or do anything that would go against the code and consequently affect the elections adversely.


So, anybody that needs to abide by the election code of conduct either should not do or speak anything that goes against the code or take the approval of the EC. That is what the election code of conduct says.


EC has written the minister for tourism demanding the explanation for transferring the top executive officer of the tourism board, according to the local media. What the reply of the minister to the EC was not reported in the media, yet. EC has done its job at least attempting to enforce the election code of conduct writing a letter to the minister.


EC and its chief have been repeatedly saying in the media that the government should not do anything that goes against the election code of conduct including the transfer of the lowest level State employees. If the government needs to do so then it needs to take the approval of the EC.


Obviously, EC would give its approval to the government, political leaders and so on to do something if it does not adversely affect the elections. It means the election code of conduct does not stop the government and political leaders and their cadre doing anything provided they take the approval of the EC.


Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had consulted with the EC and its chief before he really appointed the chairman of Rastriya Prajatantra Party: Kamal Thapa to the deputy prime minister, and other members of the RPP to the ministers and ministers of State.


Obviously, Deuba had asked the approval of the EC for expanding the cabinet, and the EC gracefully approved it. So, the EC has said that the expansion of the cabinet would not adversely affect the elections and the expansion of the cabinets was the prerogative of the prime minister on Saturday, October 14, 2017 after publicly objecting Deuba appointing a few members to his cabinet making it of 56 members in the past. Probably, Deuba must have guaranteed the EC that the latest expansion of the cabinet to the 64 members would not in any way harmfully affect the elections. So, the EC approved it.


So, the harsh media comment on the EC’s approval of letting Deuba to expand his cabinet apparently done following the law and rules and regulations was not appropriate, and probably not justified. Media and critics needed to understand the election code of conduct before criticizing the EC.


Probably, EC has not changed its stand on strictly enforcing the election code of conduct, and it has followed the law for approving the expansion of the cabinet. So, EC is not like a moving vegetable vendor that changes his price even after agreeing on the price as some critics like to label it means it is not reliable.


Prime Minister Deuba had announced the expansion of the cabinet after the meeting with Chairman of CPN-Maoist-Center Prachanda, who went to the Baluwater official residence of the prime minister to inform Deuba on the Maoist party’s decision on not disagreeing on the expansion of the cabinet and not puling out its ministers from the cabinet.


So, Maoist politicians had said nothing about the expansion of the cabinet whether it went against the election code of conduct or not while Chairman of CPN-UML KP Oli had been vehemently opposing the expansion of the cabinet stating it went against the election code of conduct even when EC had said that it would not affect the elections.


After the dissolution of the legislature-parliament at the midnight between Saturday and Sunday, October 15, 2017, the Deuba government had turned into “the acting government” that would help the EC to hold elections impartially and peacefully. Consequently, Deuba could not make any major decisions on the State affairs.


Deuba had set his name to write in the golden or black letters as the prime minister that had made the largest possible cabinet of 64 members in the history of Nepal. Probably, his name would be written in the black iron letters rather than golden letters, as Deuba was to let the ministers soaked up the valuable resource of the poor Nepalese even for two months, as the term of office for the newly appointed members to the cabinet would be not more than two months.


The newly appointed eight members to the Deuba cabinet had really about two months in office, as the House of Representatives elected in the elections to be held on November 26 and December 7, 2017 would elect a new prime minister, and a new cabinet. Why they wanted to be ministers for such a short period was anybody’s guess if they were not for making money as much as possible grabbing whatever would come first.


How much money they would make during this short period remains to be seen. As most of the cabinet ministers they must be for making money rather than serving the nation and the common folks even during such a short period. Nepal does not need so many ministers for running its administration. So, the ministers are only for absorbing the State resources into their pockets. Nobody needs to say more than that the cabinet members including the prime minister that don’t feel shame at stealing the national resources from the State treasury would surely make some money for themselves and probably for their parties, too.


The constituent assembly transferred to the legislature-parliament after the promulgation of a new constitution had ended at the midnight between the Saturday and Sunday, October 15, 2017 following the constitutional provision. The legislature-parliament had to go before the last day of submitting the list of the names of candidates for the federal House of Representatives to be elected through the proportional representation means following the number of votes each political parties would receive. The final day was Sunday, October 15, 2017.


Now, let us turn to the former 595 lawmakers that had been jobless and probably homeless too because the State would not pay them the home rent, salaries and allowance after they retired from the lawmakers’ job.


Not all lawmakers slept in the legislature-parliament sessions and not all of them ha-ta means signing in the attendance register and then leave immediately but most of them did, as the Speaker had too often postpone a vote on the urgent bills to pass not having the quorum for passing the bills in the legislature parliament. Before closing the last session of the legislature-parliament, the Speaker read out names of the lawmakers that had been absent for a large number of days, but it did not make sense to the shameless lawmakers if it was made for shaming them.


After signing off in the attendance register, every lawmaker received the daily allowance for attending the legislature-parliament obviously appreciating their heavy work on crafting and then passing very important bills into laws. However, most of the lawmakers remained absent after registering their names in the attendance register. Not only that they received the daily allowance but they also received the huge salary packet every month for even being absent in the legislature-parliament, and the house rent and even travel allowance for running away from the legislature-parliament after registering their names in the attendance register. Poor lawmakers lost all these perks.


Lawmakers had been homeless, too if they had not built homes making money while in the jobs of lawmakers. Historically, most of them had made huge money and became tremendously rice. How they had made the money only they knew of course or their colleagues might know too but the common folks could only guess from their lifestyle and their bulging bellies.


Most of the lawmakers when they first entered the legislature-parliament they wore flip-flop that also worn or broken, and most of them were very slim, as they had more work to do but had less food to eat. After a few months, common folks could notice their bellies had been bulging. They were wearing expensive shoes and of course the national uniform or silky suits or dhoti kurta according to their choice.


Having said all those negatives about the lawmakers, now the good jobs they had done. They had elected at least four prime ministers such as Sushil Koirala of NC, then KP Oli of CPN-UML, and then Prachanda of CPN-Maoist-Center, and finally Sher Bahadur Deuba of NC within two years. They had passed a number of bills into laws. They continued to work even during the blockade Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unofficially imposed on Nepal on behalf of our Southern brethren in 2015 in protest against the promulgation of a new constitution.


The 595 lawmakers recently retired would not be hopelessly jobless, as their political parties would send them to different constituencies in the paid election campaign. How much stipend they would receive depend on their positions in the party and their national status. However, lawmakers belonging to minor political parties would be in a very precarious position, as their existence would be ending very soon. Small parties would have to either merged with larger political parties or would have to die not being able to cross the three percent threshold to remain alive.


Those lawmakers belonging to the large political parties would not have any problem of job if they were not rebels but belonging to small and even smaller parties would have if they had not sufficient money accumulated during the term of office. Some of them might go for campaigning to win the seats in the Federal House of Representatives.


However, only a few of them would have a chance to return as lawmakers to the federal House of Representatives again, as the Federal House of Representatives would be of much smaller size of 275 only. So, most of the 595 retired lawmakers in fact would become jobless if not homeless, too. Some of them might go to the provincial House of Representatives to keep the jobs. Job openings for provincial governors would be another opportunity for the retired lawmakers but how many of them would opt to apply for such jobs remains to be seen.


October 16, 2017


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