December 2022 Analysis: Federalism

Posted by : Rasila Dhamala


Date : 2022-12-30


While the possibilities of Nepali Congress forming the government in all provinces were clearly visible post-election results, the new alliance led by CPN UML has a comfortable majority in all seven provinces. Also, the political parties have selected their respective parliamentary leaders in each province and are set for the upcoming provincial meetings. 

Timeline of Major Events

Date Events
17 December The Election Commission submitted the provincial polls results to the Office of Provincial Heads of all seven provinces.
25 December Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chairman of CPN Maoist gets appointed as the Prime Minister of Nepal.
26 December Members of the Provincial Assembly of Province 1 and Karnali Province took oath and secrecy to office.
29 December Members of the Provincial Assembly of Bagmati and Gandaki Province took oath and secrecy to office.
30 December Members of Provincial Assembly of Madhesh and Sudurpaschim  Province took oath and secrecy to office. 

Change in Coalition Post-Election:

With change in party coalitions post November polls, the Nepalese political course has overturned. CPN Maoist walked out of the ruling coalition led by Nepali Congress over dissatisfaction with power sharing negotiations, and forged an unexpected coalition with CPN UML and other six parties. While the possibilities of Nepali Congress forming the government in all provinces were clearly visible post-election results, the new alliance led by CPN UML has a comfortable majority in all seven provinces, even in Bagmati Province where the Nepali Congress has the most seats, with 61 out of 110 provincial seats. Province 1, of the total 93 seats, has 60 seats. In the Madhesh province, the new alliance has 62 of the 107 seats. Likewise, in Gandaki province, the new alliance has 32 of the total 60 seats, while it has 52 of the 87 seats in Lumbini province. In Karnali province, the new alliance has 24 of the total of 40 seats. In Sudurpaschim province, the new alliance has 29 of total 53 provincial seats. But with Nagarik Unmukti Party deciding to leave the alliance and not to support any party for provincial government, the situation is still unsettled. While the Rastriya Prajatantra Party demanded the position of Chief Minister of Bagmati Province, the government formation is still lingering.
The political parties have selected their respective parliamentary leaders in each province and are set for the upcoming provincial meetings. The political allies have built consensus for the government formation following their accord at central level. However, tug-of-war among the parties for ministries has again led to uncertainties. As the coalition is big, the list of contenders for the ministerial position and speakers is also long, thus the conclusion on government formation has still not met.    

Centre takes the lead in Provincial government formation:

The latest coalition is set to direct the track of provincial politics from the capital strongly. The coalition was formed to add up the political mathematics in the centre, so each ally is dependent on each other to hang on the power games. The parties are still juggling around to ensure a fair share of positions. CPN UML was far from its participation in government except for a few possibilities, while now it is the most powerful with the interesting turn of events. With its own performance at the provincial level, CPN UML will have heavy occupancy in major roles of provincial government.
Federalism is slowly gaining confidence among the Nepalese public, although some of them think it should be completely terminated or at least restructured, this unanticipated twist has again questioned its notion. Although there were early indications during the elections that coalitions among the parties might be affected by provincial discourse, now it seems provinces have turned weaker when it comes to their positioning in their own party influence and added fire to the label of being just the figureheads.

Parliamentary meetings post-election

The lawmakers of the provincial assembly took the oath of office and secrecy as administered by the senior-most members of the assembly of six provinces in the last week of December. This will be followed by the first provincial meeting of all individual provinces, set to be conducted in the first week of January. Province 1 is set to conduct its first meeting on the first of January. Meanwhile, other provinces are set to have it on January 2nd. Although the provinces have almost prepared for the meetings, the political parties are yet to finalise the government formation consensus.

Challenges for new provincial governments:

The first five years of Provincial government passed without exercising their powers fully, with the Federal Government failing to act as a facilitator. There were quite a few changes in the provincial governments with Madhesh Pradesh being the exception. Although the new provincial governments are yet to form because the central level of coalition political parties are delaying in their internal conclusion. The new election has given them the new pathways to move forward with. While provincial elections remain overshadowed and neglected by the political parties, the political parties still have a chance to abide by the notion of Federalism.
Among the common challenges of all provinces, one of them is lack of introduction of regulations, guidelines and procedures under Nepal Police and Province Police (operation, supervision and coordination) Act, 2020, despite its amendment last September. The Federal government has also failed to make regulations and mechanisms for significant sectors like education and health, leading to delay in lower tiers of government. Provincial governments have often faced allegations of corruption, one of the examples being  corruption highlighted on the ‘Educate Girl, Save Girl’ campaign project introduced by Madhesh Province to decrease the drop rate of girl students.
Yet another challenge to institutionalise Federalism lies i.e. inactive Interprovincial council. Despite its responsibilities to maintain interrelationship between the three tiers of governments, it has failed to do so in the last five years. The Federal government failed to properly guide the council even with constant demands from provinces. Provinces have not properly gained their concurrent power and roles, although it is clearly mentioned in the Constitution of Nepal, 2015. This time, the new government needs to give proper attention to the council so that the provincial governments can exercise their powers fully.