KATHMANDU, Jan 16: Chairmen of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) K P Sharma Oli, also prime minister, and Pushpa Kamal Dahal has held a meeting at the PM’s official residence in Baluwatar on Thursday.
According to PM’s Press Advisor Surya Thapa, the chairs discussed Speaker’s appointment.
The meeting of the chair duo comes amid speculations of widening rift between former CPN-UML and former Maoist factions as the ruling party struggles to finalize a name for the speaker, resulting in a deadlock in the parliament with the winter session of the House of Representatives adjourned again and again—last being put off on Jan 12 till Jan 20 even though it was not necessary.
The position of speaker has remained vacant since Krishna Bahadur Mahara stood down following an attempted rape allegation from a female parliament staffer in September.
The ruling NCP wants to appoint a new speaker and wants Deputy-speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe to resign since the Constitution does not allow the election of both speaker and deputy speaker from the same party.
The constitutional provision blocks the NCP to announce a candidate before the deputy speaker resigns, but Tumbahamphe, who is from former UML, is in no mood to step down vacating the House leadership unless the ruling party announces its candidate first.
Moreover, Tumbahamphe has refused to come under party pressure arguing the NCP has no legal authority to tell her to resign and claimed the position for herself saying she is qualified enough to be appointed as the new speaker of the parliament. She has even presented a 12-point accomplishment to the co-chairs.
She has also refused to be the victim of Mahara’s sexual offense.
Both Oli and Dahal want to select a candidate of their own choice. Oli wants to elect former two-time Speaker Subash Nembang while Dahal wants Agni Sapkota on the post.
And, Oli was certainly displeased, according to reports, when Dahal held a separate meeting with a number of party senior leaders. There are also rumors that Oli and leaders close to him are playing a double role to deny the Dahal faction the position when Maoist faction is not ready to give up the only post of high-level political representation.
The Speaker row has also brought the party’s support for gender equality under scrutiny as women’s right activists criticize the NCP for being rude to Tumbahamphe and not choosing her as a new speaker just because she is a woman.
Tumbahamphe gets support from women lawmakers and social media. She also has support from President Bidya Devi Bhandari, according to reports.