Delay in bringing poll code a major cause for concern

  • We’ll take a decision most probably by tomorrow: EC
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Feb 25, 2017-

Even four days after the announcement of local level elections for May 14, the Election Commission (EC) is yet to come up with the poll code of conduct.

According to EC officials, the election code of conduct is likely to come into force most probably from March 1. 

The delay in enforcing election code of conduct could give the government the leeway to make key transfers of civil servants and police officials that could benefit the ruling parties. Hence, experts say the sooner the code of conduct is implemented, the better it is, as it would help conduct the polls in a free and fair manner. 

Some EC officials, however, have hinted that there “is some sort of influence” from the government to delay the enforcement of election code of conduct. 

Since the poll date was announced on Monday, the government has transferred 16 chief district officers, 20 deputy inspectors general of Nepal Police and 10 deputy inspectors of general of the Armed Police Force. 

Past experiences show that the ruling parties immensely benefited during local elections, which have been held only twice since the restoration of democracy in 1990.

Then ruling Nepali Congress had won 55.34 percent seats in the first local elections held in 1990. When second local elections were held in 1997, the CPN-UML was in power, and it held the sway in local bodies after winning 59 percent of seats. 

Besides, lack of election code of conduct could prompt those in power, or close to power centres, to misuse state facilities and machineries for their election benefit. 

However, experts say brining the election code of conduct only does not help. There has to be strict implementation and proper monitoring, they say. 

A report prepared by the Informal Sector Service Centre (Insec), then Unified CPN (Maoist)—now CPN (Maoist Centre)—was the biggest election code of conduct violator during the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013. 

Of the total 912 incidents of election code violation, the Maoist party was found involved in 223 cases, according to the report by Insec, one of the monitoring agencies in 2013 elections. 

The EC had also questioned Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of then Unified CPN (Maoist), for using helicopters without the poll body’s approval. 

The 2013 CA elections were overseen by a technocratic government led by then chief justice Khil Raj Regmi. 

The third local elections after 20 years are now being held under Dahal’s government. 

According to the Act on Amendment and Integration of the Laws related to Works and Duties of Election Commission, the EC can issue code of conduct restricting the government from introducing new policy, declaring new plans and programmes, mobilising human resources and using state-owned media.

When asked about the EC’s plan to enforce the code of conduct, Election Commissioner Sudhir Shah said the poll body “has realised the urgency” and that it would take a decision by Sunday. 

Shah, who heads the EC’s code of conduct preparation committee, attributed the delay to the need for adjusting some provisions of previous code of conduct to suit local elections. 

“For example, we are going to introduce a provision on expenditure limit for candidates,” he said.

Published: 25-02-2017 08:03

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