EC for distributing citizenship along with voter registration

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Dec 21, 2016-

The Election Commission (EC) has suggested the government distribute citizenship certificates by sending mobile teams alongside voters’ registration to ensure the voting right of all the eligible citizens ahead of the proposed local elections next spring. 

“The main objective of the proposal is that no eligible voter be deprived of voting rights,” Chief Election Commissioner Ayodee Prasad Yadav told the Post. Citizenship certificate is a must to be registered as a voter.

As of mid-July 2016, a total of 21.20 million citizenship certificates have been distributed, according to the Home Ministry. The number of registered voters stands at over 13.5 million, which also include many aged over 16 as potential voters, according to the EC. As per the constitution, only people aged over 18 years can cast vote.

However, the Home Ministry does not have any immediate plan to distribute citizenship certificates. “No formal decision has been made so far on the distribution of citizenship alongside voters’ registration,” said Yadav Prasad Koirala, joint secretary at the Home Ministry. “If it is required to carry out both tasks simultaneously, we will hold discussion with the EC.”

But political parties hold divergent views on the suggestion of distributing the citizenship certificates by mobilising mobile teams. 

The main opposition CPN-UML does not see any need to run a separate campaign on top of the regular process for distributing the citizenship certificates. “The EC should not worry too much about the citizenship,” said UML Vice-chairman Bhim Rawal. “If it is concerned about people being left out of the voters’ list due to lack of citizenship certificate, it can call people to obtain citizenship certificates at the earliest and register their names on the voters’ list.”

Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato, however, maintains that onus lies with the government to ensure citizenship certificates to all the eligible citizens in an easier manner. “It is all upto the government to decide how people can obtain citizenship certificates without any trouble,” he said. 

The Madhes-centric parties have raised the issue of citizenship distribution among the Madhesi people in the past. Considering Madhesi leaders’ consistent complaints that many Madhesi people have been deprived of citizenship certificates, Citizenship Act 2006 was introduced with a flexible provision to acquire the Nepali citizenship certificate.

More than 2.6 million citizenship certificates were distributed before the first Constituent Assembly (CA) election in 2008, according to the Home Ministry. Out of that, 1.4 million certificates were distributed in the Hills and 1.2 million in the Tarai.

Before the CA election in 2013, joint mobile teams comprising the Home Ministry and the EC representatives distributed the citizenship certificates across the country. Four major political forces at the time—the UCPN (Maoist), the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha—had signed an agreement to provide citizenship certificates at the local level and incorporate them into wthe new voter roll before the election. 

As many as 603,094 citizenship certificates were distributed through Integrated Mobile Teams and Citizenship Distribution Teams mobilized in 2013, according to the Home Ministry.

Published: 21-12-2016 08:26

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