16-22 October 2015 #780

More seats for the Madhes

Tufan Neupane in Himal Khabarpatrika, 11 October

A few days after the promulgation of the new constitution, a New Delhi-based think-tank published an article by Hari Bansh Jha who described the demarcation of constituencies as the document’s principal weakness. The author pointed out that the mountains and hills, together home to less than half of the country’s population, are allowed 100 seats in parliament whereas only 65 are allotted for the plains.

Manish Kumar Sah, an officer at the regional election commission office in Banke wrote in a post on his Facebook page: ‘If the seats were allotted in proportion to population, Tarai should have been given 83 electoral constituencies. But according to the existing provision in the constitution, which allows one seat per district, the Tarai gets only 20 seats. Among the rest of the seats, which are determined by the population of each region, the Tarai gets another 45 seats. The hills and mountains region get 20 per cent more seats than Tarai, even though it has less population and area.’

Both analysts as well as activists of the Madhes-based parties are misinformed. Actually the number of seats in the Tarai are more or less proportionate to the population of the plains, according to Netra Prasad Dhital, a member of Constituency Delineation Commission-2013. He explains that the confusion surrounding the division of constituencies mainly arose because of a misinterpretation of provisions in the constitution. As seats are allotted based on each region’s electoral constituencies, the number of seats may not be exactly in proportion to their population.

Based on the amendment tabled on 7 October, the Tarai will now have 79 seats for 20 districts, four fewer than the 83 that they have been demanding. According to Dhital, the parliamentary seats are determined using ‘modified cent log method’, the same formula used to determine the ratio of CA members to the votes received by a political party.

An employee of the Central Bureau of Statistics who previously helped the Election Commission to calculate the ratio of CA members, worked out the number of parliamentary seats using the log method for Himal.

Under the ‘higher quota’, one seat was allocated for 18 districts in the hill and mountain regions for districts with lower-than-average population. The remaining 147 seats were distributed to 57 districts using the aforementioned method. While the number of constituencies for Kathmandu remained the same, it decreased for other districts.

When 147 constituencies are allocated to 57 districts, the average population in each constituency is 173,303. Except Bardia, Dang, Kapilvastu, Rupandehi, Chitwan, Dhanusa and Sunsari, the population in the remaining 13 districts of Tarai will be less than average. The only district in Tarai with a population of more than 200,000 is Bardia.

On the other hand, 16 districts in the hills and mountains have populations higher than average. The populations of several districts in the hills outnumbers Bardia. This suggests that, as a result of the provision that mandates one electoral constituency per district, the majority of the population load is indeed borne by districts in the hills themselves.

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