Political parties have expedited homework for formation of a new government as they have 30 days to do so after the Election Commission submitted the final results of the House of Representatives (HoR) elections to President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Thursday.
Article 76 (1) of the Constitution states that the president shall appoint the leader of the parliamentary party that commands a majority in the HoR as the prime minister. The next prime minister, however, will have to be appointed as per Article 76 (2) with none of the parties securing a majority in the November 20 elections.
“In cases where no party has a clear majority in the House of Representatives pursuant to clause (1), the President shall appoint as the Prime Minister a member of the House of Representatives who is able to command a majority with the support of two or more parties represented in the House of Representatives,” Article 76 (2) of the Constitution states.
Article 76 (3) of the Constitution says that two or more parties must present their claim to government formation as per Article 76 (2) to the president within 30 days of announcement of the final results of the HoR elections. In the failure to do so, it adds, the leader of the parliamentary party with the most seats in the HoR shall be appointed prime minister.
However, chances are slim that President Bhandari will invite the parties for government formation. The Office of the President is currently discussing what the president’s role will be in formation of a new government.
According to Joint Secretary Sagar Acharya, spokesperson for the Office of the President, the Office of the President is holding consultations regarding the government formation process. “It is not stated clearly anywhere in the Constitution that the president shall invite [parties] for formation of a new government. We are discussing with legal experts about how to proceed now,” Acharya said.
When asked whether they would follow the precedent of 2018, when CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) had presented their claim to government formation to the president after the elections, Acharya said that they are discussing what to do as per the Constitution rather than what had happened last time.
On February 15, 2018, CPN-UML Chairman and HoR member KP Sharma Oli had presented his claim to the post of prime minister with a letter of support from CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center).
Clauses (1) and (3) of Article 76 of the Constitution require the prime minister to be a parliamentary party leader, but clause (2) does not have such a requirement. Therefore, Oli was appointed prime minister on the morning of February 15 while he was unanimously elected as parliamentary party leader only later in the afternoon.
At least 138 lawmakers are required to secure a majority in the 275-member HoR. Nepali Congress (NC) is the largest party in the HoR with 89 seats, followed by CPN-UML with 78 seats and Maoist Center a distant third with 32 seats.
New entrant Rastriya Swatantra Party has 20 seats, Rastriya Prajatantra Party 14, Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) 12 and Janamat Party six seats.
CPN (Unified Socialist) has 10 seats, Loktantrik Samajwadi Party (LSP) has four, and Nagarik Unmukti Party has three seats. Rastriya Janamorcha and Nepal Workers and Peasants Party have one seat each.
Five independent lawmakers – Yogendra Mandal, Amresh Kumar Singh, Kiran Kumar Sah, Prabhu Sah and Lalbir Chaudhary – have also been elected to the HoR.
The number of lawmakers from the current ruling coalition partners – NC, Maoist Center, Unified Socialist, LSP and Rastriya Janamorcha – adds up to 136.
In its verdict on the Parliament dissolution case, the Supreme Court has interpreted that Article 76 (1), (2) and (3) of the Constitution require the support of a party or party's leader for government formation. This rules out the possibility of forming a government with the support of independent lawmakers.
In such a scenario, it appears that the parties will have to muster support to form the next government as per Article 76 (2).