Nepal was the country most likely to be the next one to adopt semi-presidentialism. However, at the end of last month the Constituent Assembly collapsed and with it any imminent likelihood of semi-presidentialism.
The Constituent Assembly was elected in 2008. The duration of the Assembly had already been extended. However, a final deadline of 28 May was set for the passage of the new constitution. This deadline was not met and the Assembly was dissolved. New elections are likely to be held later this year.
A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of seeing the part of the draft constitution that related to the executive and to executive/legislative relations. The draft constitution clearly established a semi-presidential system. The parties had yet to agree on the division of power between the president and the prime minister, and the relations between the executive and the legislature were also underspecified. By contrast, clauses relating to government formation were probably over-specified. Overall, even though the Assembly had been operating for four years, there was still work to do and some fairly major decisions to be made. That said, the constitution was nearly ready, if the parties were willing to come to an agreement.
In the end, the Constituent Assembly collapsed over the issue of federalism. Nepal is a country of 28 million people. The parties could not agree whether the country’s provinces should be economically based, or ethnically based.
There are links to more details about the constitution-making process in Nepal at constitutionmaking.org.
Two articles in The Kathmandu Post provide a brief update about the constitutional situation in Nepal.
The first confirms that the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is still insisting on a directly elected president. With collective cabinet responsibility a given, this would lead to a semi-presidential system, or as it is known in Nepal, a mixed government. However, they seem to want a strong presidency and a “nominal” PM “who performs administrative duties”.
The second reports that the Nepali Congress is reiterating its preference for a parliamentary system. However, there seems to be some support for the idea that a semi-presidential system could be acceptable as a last resort but only “if the power sharing places the PM in a position more powerful than the president”.
So, while there seem to be competing views, there is still a good chance that Nepal will, eventually, adopt semi-presidentialism.
The Himalayan Times is reporting that parties in Nepal have agreed to introduce semi-presidentialism.
The process of constitutional choice in Nepal has been tortuous. However, the so-called Problem Resolution Sub-Committee of the Constitutional Committee has been addressing some of the outstanding constitutional issues. One of these was the basic form of government. The report suggests that semi-presidentialism has been adopted as a compromise option, given the different preferences of the various parties.
The decision is not final. There is another report by the so-called State Restructuring Commission that will also have a say in the process. This committee is due to report towards the end of this month.
One interesting element of the report is the information that both the president and the PM will be given executive powers, though the precise distribution is not specified. However, the report states that the PM will be more powerful.
Thanks to Matthew Shugart’s Fruits and Votes site for alerting to me to this item. It seems that at least one party in Nepal’s constitution-making process is proposing semi-presidentialism as its preferred form of government.
Recall that Nepal has a Constituent Assembly that is drafting a new constitution. The Assembly has established a Committee on Determination of Forms of the Governance of State. Various parties have submitted proposals to the committee on the type of executive system that the country should have. Nepal News reports some of the parties’ positions:
The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) supports a directly elected executive president and a less powerful prime minister – the CPN has 220 seats in the 600-seat Assembly;
The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) supports a directly elected prime minister and ceremonial president – the CPN(UML) has 103 seats in the Assembly;
The Nepali Congress supports the election of the president by the state assembly and the prime minister by the central parliament – Congress has 110 seats in the Assembly.
These are by far the largest groups in the Assembly.
Anyway, at a meeting of the Committee on Determination of Forms of the Governance of State on 1 December The Kathmandhu Post reports that the Congress and CPN(UML) submitted a joint proposal along the lines of what appears to be a parliamentary system, while the CPN tabled their proposal. Apparently, the CPN proposal received 18 votes in favour and 20 against, while the joint Congress/CPN proposal received 16 votes with 21 against.
Basically, there was no agreement, though the proposal for semi-presidentalism received the most support and was supported by the largest party in the system. So, it must stand a reasonable chance of being adopted. That said, while semi-presidentialism is often easy to choose, this is usually because two opposing blocks support presidentialism and parliamentarism. Therefore, semi-presidentialism is the acceptable compromise. In this scenario, because of the explicit support for semi-presidentialism from one party, it may be fundamentally unacceptable to all other players except as part of an overall deal and that may be unlikely.
Note that at the website of the Constituent Assembly there is a guide to constitution making for citizens of Nepal (in English – so I wonder how many citizens have read this version). In chapter 15 there is a brief summary of the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government, including semi-presidentialism.