Parliamentary affairs | Obstruction | Poor political culture | Lawmakers | Accountability

International Convention Centre, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu
International Convention Centre, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu

Op-ed

The ongoing parliament obstruction: A shabby opposition tool

The prolonged stalling of the Parliament is fostering a poor political culture, at a time when the country is reeling under socio-economic stress and deprived of updated laws.

By Suvechchha Chapagain |

Over eight months since the 2022 general elections. Looking back, the election did deliver a democratic and diverse mandate — multiple parties secured substantial seats and no single party dominates the present Parliament — making the parliamentary process more inclusive and accountable.

Contrary to the aspiration however parliamentary affairs appear to be depressing rather than uplifting the public. 

Of the total 76 parliament meetings, the 28 meetings in the first session (Winter) from January 9 to April 28 went smoothly. The second session (Budget), for which 48 meetings have been scheduled so far since May 7, faces continued interruptions, however.

Since the November 20 elections, the Parliament has not been able to formulate a single new bill, except for the bill to amend some Nepal laws relating to the National Penal (Code) Act — criminalising usury or loan sharking. The bill was passed by both houses and authenticated by President Ram Chandra Poudel, enforcement is underway. Besides that, three bills related to budget; namely the Appropriation Bill, the Finance Bill, and the Bill to Raise National Debt that require yearly revision were ratified

Earlier on May 3, an ordinance to address the complaints of usury was issued by the President, which was registered in the Parliament on May 7. An ordinance replacement bill was introduced in the Parliament, upon passage of which the ordinance would get parliamentary legitimacy, however, so could not happen. Following the provision of passing an ordinance within 60 days of the first meeting of the Parliament, the usury-related ordinance remained in effect till July 5.

On July 5, the CPN-UML and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party obstructed the Parliament demanding clarification from Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ about his remarks on Sardar Pritam Singh lobbying with the New Delhi establishment to make him PM. While the Parliament was being stalled by some political parties over the ludicrous statement of the PM, the victims of loan sharks were seeking justice.

And although the Parliament resumed after PM Prachanda apologised for his remarks, it is now obstructed by the UML since July 26 demanding the formation of a “high-level investigation committee” to examine the smuggling of a quintal of gold from the Tribhuvan International Airport and the alleged involvement of the incumbent Home Minister and Finance Minister in it.

Social media at the moment is flooded with public anger over the dysfunctionality of the Parliament as a result of frequent obstructions. Some parliamentarians have resorted to tweeting about this nuisance and seeking public help.

Parliament obstruction is a well-practised tool for opposition to demonstrate their dissatisfaction. Political parties in advanced democracies use it primarily to express their disagreement over government decisions or proposed legislation, or to attract public attention and support on the issue. The tactic is also used by minority political parties that lack substantial influence to prevent tabling bills. 

The prolonged stalling of Nepal’s parliament is cultivating a poor political culture. Often the reason behind such obstructions has little relevance to parliamentary affairs as they barely relate to the core responsibilities of the parliamentarians, hindering democratic practices and preventing discussion on real-time issues. The other reason includes pressing the government for unlawful bargains that are self-serving for the politicians and their parties.

Recently, political analyst Jhalak Subedi was quoted by The Kathmandu Post regarding the parliamentary obstruction as “a move to invite instability to the country and prove that the government was failing.” 

The ongoing obstruction of the Parliament is problematic because of multiple reasons. 

First, the formulation and revision of the laws are the only primary job assigned to parliamentarians as lawmakers. But there seems little consideration for the urgent need to formulate new and updated laws to ensure good governance, rule of law, and economic growth.

The laws of fundamental importance such as the Federal Education Bill, Federal Civil Service Bill, etc, which were registered in the previous Parliament remain to be tabled.

Other significant bills such as those related to acid attacks and sexual violence, and the citizenship bill were also stalled multiple times in the previous Parliament.

Between September 2021 to March 2022, the Parliament had been stalled for an entire session with UML demanding that 14 of its lawmakers who had defected to form CPN (Unified Socialist) be expelled. This also delayed the law-making process of the long-awaited ‘Enforced Disappeared Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act’ eventually affecting conflict victims. 

Second, the obstruction not only delays policy-making but also justice. The victims of loan sharks, acid attacks, and sexual offenses had counted on the Parliament to formulate effective laws that would open doors to justice for them — which were later formulated following long toiling protests from the victims. However, it is said: justice delayed is justice denied. Clearly, the parliamentarians are failing to view justice that the laws they form would facilitate, and holding their self-interest higher than the public welfare. 

Third, tremendous resources are spent on electing lawmakers, paying them salaries and benefits, and holding parliamentary meetings — a costly process at the expense of taxpayers’ money. A new parliamentary building is being constructed at a total cost of over Rs 5.3 billion inside the Singha Durbar premise. Then there is public trust and expectations of democratic norms and processes who are hoping for better policymaking. 

The current poor parliamentary practice is eroding all that. Just look at the annual outbound migration rates — 2.920 per 1000 in 2020; 3.636 per 1000 in 2021; 4.353 per 1000 in 2022; 5.070 per 1000 in 2023; — the numbers have anything but increased.

Realistically, the general public and principles of parliamentary democracy do not anticipate bipartisan consensus on all matters. However, the constant and continued obstruction of the law-making process is not acceptable under the name of democracy. It is evident that the leaders demanding transparency over one irregularity — UML asking for the investigation of the gold smuggling case — are overlooking other issues that need immediate attention — for example, rising inflation, and monsoon disaster response. 

The current lot of leaders should not only seek accountability. They themselves need to be accountable. There are creative alternatives to the opposition — leaders can use media channels to directly inform the public on matters of irregularities besides parliamentary affairs, seek judicial or legal mechanisms, and build allies with civil society and citizen groups to pressurise the government. 

Note that the political obstruction as argued could make the entire electoral and democratic processes redundant and undermine the very principle of an inclusive parliamentary democracy, which all parties preach but are rarely practising when the occasion demands. A prolonged parliamentary obstruction is an act of moral corruption by the elected leaders. 

Suvechchha Chapagain is a Senior Program Officer at Accountability Lab Nepal where her area of focus is on democracy, governance, and civic engagement.

Read More Stories

Environment

Kathmandu’s decay: From glorious past to ominous future

Kathmandu: The legend and the legacy Legend about Kathmandus evolution holds that the...

by Sabin Jung Pande

Environment

Kathmandu - A crumbling valley!

Valleys and cities should be young, vibrant, inspiring and full of hopes with...

by Sabin Jung Pande

News

331 killed in various disasters since January

Nepal has been facing mayhem of floods and landslides for over a month...

by the_farsight

×