Projects for lawmakers: Incumbent MPs may have ‘unfair’ advantage
- EC says ‘hands tied’ over projects under constituency development and infrastructure programmes
Sep 14, 2017-Incumbent lawmakers contesting the upcoming provincial or federal elections may get an “unfair” advantage over their rival candidates, as they will have ample opportunity to influence voters by showcasing the projects to be implemented under the Constituency Infrastructure Special Programme (CISP) and Constituency Development Programme (CDP).
Amending the regulations regarding the implementation of the projects under the CISP and the CDP, the government has asked lawmakers to submit projects to be implemented under these two programmes by October 17.
Interestingly, this comes at a time when the election code of conduct for the two major polls is in force. The poll code enforced since August 30 prevents the government from introducing and implementing new projects.
The Election Commission (EC), however, said it “cannot stop the projects to be implemented under the CISP and the CDP as they are part of the budget passed by Parliament.”
“I personally feel that the incumbent lawmakers will have an advantage over their rival candidates through these programmes,” said Election Commissioner Sudhir Shah, who is also the head of the EC’s election code of conduct committee. “But the EC does not have the basis to stop the implementation of the projects which are included in the annual budget.”
According to him, the EC can stop the government from implementing new projects only, which are new in the sense that they were not part of the fiscal budget.
The government has allocated Rs 30 million for each constituency to be implemented under the CISP, while Rs 5 million each has been allocated to lawmakers to implement projects under the CDP.
The provincial and federal polls are scheduled for November 26 and December 7.
The Cabinet on September 6 amended the CISP (Operation Working Procedure) Regulation and CDP (Operation Working Procedure) Regulation, setting a deadline of October 17 for the lawmakers to submit the projects to be implemented under these two programmes to the District Technical Offices.
Experts said allowing incumbent lawmakers “to influence” voters with the money available under the CISP and CDP would certainly raise the question about the fairness of elections.
“There should be a level playing field for all the candidates to ensure that elections are free and fair,” said Nil Kantha Upreti, former chief election commissioner. “The EC must stop the lawmakers from proposing the projects.”
“Selection of projects now will be tantamount to bringing new projects, which has been barred by the election code of conduct,” said Upreti. “There are high chances that lawmakers will choose projects in such a way that they can influence the election results in their favour.”
The term of the incumbent parliamentarians will end on October 21, a day before the nominations will be filed for the federal and provincial elections. Experts say lawmakers might select several small projects instead of a big one with a view to wooing voters in their favour.
Published: 14-09-2017 08:23