Ashok Dahal and Mani Dahal, Republica Daily, 20 Dec 2017
The dispute between Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-UML over the system for constituting the National Assembly (NA) has delayed authentication of the upper house election ordinance by the president and the formation of the new government.
The Election Commission (EC) has stated that without the formation of the upper house, it cannot allocate the proportional representation (PR) seats to various political parties in parliament. The ruling NC has accused the president of delaying the authentication of the election ordinance allegedly at the behest of the UML. But UML, which has emerged as the largest force in the recent parliamentary, provincial and local polls, has accused the NC of trying to prolong its stay in power.
The UML has also accused NC of changing the rules in the middle of the game. NC included the provision of electing upper house members through a Single Transferable Voting (STV) system whereas the parties had earlier decided to elect the members by majority vote. The third-largest political force, CPN (Maoist Center), which forged an electoral alliance with UML, has remained silent on the issue so far.
Following the dispute over the election system for the National Assembly, the handover of government leadership to the left alliance, which emerged the largest force in the election, has been delayed.
At the crux of the dispute between the two major political forces.is increasing the number of seats they will have in the 59-member upper house.
If the National Assembly election is held under the STV system, the NC is likely to secure eight representatives in the upper house from the seven provinces.
But if the upper house is elected through majority vote, the NC's presence therein may be nil as the party lacks majority in any provincial assembly and has less number of local unit chiefs or deputy chiefs in six of the provinces in comparison to the left alliance of UML and Maoists. The electoral college for the NA comprises members of the provincial assemblies and the local level chiefs and deputy chiefs.
The STV voting system gives parties with minority votes a chance to secure some seats in the upper house and the parties with a majority may not sweep all seats in all the provinces as they have to spend votes to maintain minimum threshold for each seat. In the STV system, one vote is counted only once while in the majority system, the same of total votes can win all the seats.
In the STV system, parties should file their candidates for the upper house on a priority basis. According to this system, a candidate of first priority will be elected first and remaining votes of that party will be transferred to the second priority candidate.
Under this proposed system, vote transfer is applicable only for six candidates -- three under the open quota and another three under the women's quota.
According to the STV formula, the total vote of a given province will be divided by the total number of seats plus one.
As per the formula, after adding another one to the result the threshold for electing a member to the National Assembly will be finalized.
The minimum threshold for all seven provinces may vary based on the number of local units and number of members of the respective provincial assembly.
For example, Province-1 has 137 local units. This means the number of voters from the local units will be 137 x 2 because the chiefs and deputy chiefs are both eligible to vote in this election. Thus, their total voting weight-age will be 4,932 as per the formula of multiplying it by 18.
As per the proposed provision, the vote of local representatives is given a weightage of 18 while the vote of a provincial assembly member will carry a weightage of 48.
The province-1 will have 93 provincial assembly members and their total vote weight-age will be 4,464 (93 x 48). The total vote weight-age of the province will be 9,396 after adding votes from representatives of both local units and the provincial assembly.
While calculating the total vote weightage under the STV formula, the 9,396 will be divided by four (three seats each under open and women's quota plus one) and adding another one to the result. The threshold that emerges will be 2,350. The UML is set to win 51 seats in the provincial assembly of Province-1 including 36 under the first-past-the-post and is likely to win 15 seats under proportional representation (PR). Likewise, the Maoists are expected to win 15 seats including 10 FPTP and 5 PR seats in the province. The total voting weightage of the two left alliance parties will be 3,168 (66 × 48).
Similarly, the left alliance has a total of 170 local units chiefs or deputy chiefs in Province-1, including 154 of UML and 16 of the Maoists. The total voting weightage of the alliance will be 3,060 (170 × 18). The maximum vote of the left alliance in the province will be 6,228, a number arrived by adding the total votes of local units and the provincial assembly.
The NC will have a 2,736 voting weightage in the province, adding the weightage of its local unit office bearers and provincial assembly members.
As per the STV method, the first and priority candidate of the left alliance will get 2,350 each and it will have 1,528 left, which will be inadequate for electing the third priority candidate of the alliance. In such a situation, NC which will have 2,736 votes can at least elect its first priority candidate. With the STV system applicable for the quota if three open and three women candidates, one candidate each from NC can be elected under both quotas. But, NC's vote will be inadequate to elect its candidate in Provinces 2, 3 and 6 as the party has fewer provincial assembly members and local unit chiefs or deputy chiefs.
The left alliance is likely to win 40 seats in the National Assembly even under the STV election system. But the alliance may win at least 48 seats in the upper house under the majority voting system. The alliance can sweep all seats in six provinces (except province-2 ) as the alliance has a majority in those provinces.
Formation of National Assembly
According to the constitution, the upper house will comprise 59 members--eight each elected from the seven provinces and three nominated by the president. The statute has made it mandatory to elect at least three women, one Dalit or from a minority and one with a disability from each province.
Members of the upper house will be elected through the votes of the provincial assembly members and chiefs or deputy chiefs of the local units in the respective provinces. The ordinance stalled at the president's office has proposed different voting weight-age for provincial assembly members and local unit office bearers. A vote of the provincial assembly will be nearly three times weightier than the vote of a local unit chief or deputy chief as per the proposed provision. It has envisioned that a vote of the provincial assembly member will be multiplied by 48 and a local unit voter will be multiplied by 18, during the counting.