General

Lack of election laws puts EC in a fix

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Dec 13, 2016-With time ticking away for the local elections by April, the Election Commission has expressed serious concerns over lack of laws to hold the elections. None of the five laws required for holding the polls has been enacted yet.

The election body has said that local elections should be held by April 2017 to have any chance to hold elections for Provincial Parliament, National Assembly and Federal Parliament before the tenure of current Parliament expires on January 21, 2018.

But a renewed political confrontation between the ruling coalition and the main opposition CPN-UML over the constitution amendment bill registered by the government at Parliament along with a delay in introducing new election related laws has raised doubts over the timely local elections.

The EC says it will take at least 120 days to make necessary preparations for the local elections, which means the election body is left with very little time to enact five new laws.

All five bills have finally reached Parliament after the government registered two new bills--Local Election Procedure Act and Election (Offence and Punishment) Act at the Parliament Secretariat on Monday, according to Kamal Shali Ghimire, secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Three other bills--Bill to Amend and Integrate Laws related to the Election Commission, Bill Related to Voters’ List and Bill to Amend and Integrate Laws Related to Political Parties--have been languishing in the State Affairs Committee of Parliament for the past two months.

“Election laws are guiding documents for making preparations for the elections. It would be easier for us to make preparation if the necessary laws are introduced before Mid-December,” said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav.

However, neither the government nor Parliament has shown urgency to pass the election-related laws.  The State Affairs Committee of Parliament, which is discussing on the three bills, is far from reaching any decision on the bills.

The House committee has met only thrice since the bills were sent to the panel for discussions on October 16.  The committee is yet to make a decision on suggestions from lawmakers to conclude the issues raised during discussions by forming a single or three seperate sub-committees. “We will take a decision on the matter in the next meeting,” said committee Chair Dil Bahadur Gharti, refuting suggestions that his committee had delayed a decision on the bills.

“We will settle the issues raised by the lawmakers on the bills as soon as possible and send them to a full House for approval,” he said.

The lawmakers are divided over maintaining threshold of votes for representation, state funding to the political parties, initial age to be eligible to cast vote, issue of strengthening the EC, allowing the EC to fix election date and number of signatures from supporters to register a political party.

The EC officials said they could not move ahead with measures to make crucial reforms as proposed, such as state funding to the parties based on vote secured in the previous elections, and threshold of votes to secure seat in Parliament, among other issues.

Beside the laws, the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC) has been delaying in submitting its report, affecting preparations for the elections.

“We have to determine and adjust the voting centres as per the demarcation of local units set by the LLCR report if local elections are held based on new structure of local bodies,” said a senior official at EC.

Political parties’ uncertainty whether to hold the local elections based on the existing structure or a new one as suggested by the LLRC is another factor affecting the poll preparations, according to the EC officials.

“Even if the elections are held based on the existing structure, the current laws should be amended to make them compatible with new constitution,” said Surya Sharma, EC spokesperson.

Published: 13-12-2016 08:38

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