Price of polls

  • PM and EC should make all efforts to hold provincial and general polls in one go if it’s politically feasible

Jul 31, 2017-

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba seems determined to complete all elections—first, the third phase of local level elections, and subsequently provincial and general elections—by the constitutional deadline of January 21, 2018. This is a matter of grave urgency for him, since the last time he was prime minister in 2004-05, the then king Gyanendra sacked him precisely for his failure to hold elections on time. 

Deuba looks keen to set his legacy right. And as part of his strategy, he has proposed that both provincial and general elections should be held all across the country on the same day. This was his message to the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday and to a group of editors, whom he met on Saturday.

The plan to hold provincial and federal elections on the same date has its merits. For one, the deadline by which to hold elections is very tight. There is less than six months before all elections have to be conducted. The preparations necessary for them are immense. Further, given the terrain and climate of the country, the government has to choose a date where it is actually possible for people to go out and vote. The 

winter season (especially December and January) is not a good time for people to vote, particularly in mountain districts which could see heavy snowfall. 

In addition, holding both elections on the same date will save the government a lot of money. According to one estimate, this will save as much as Rs6 billion. The EC has said that it will be logistically difficult to accommodate Prime Minister Deuba’s plan. But the commission has recognised the benefits of one-shot elections, and commissioners have said that they will try to find ways to hold both elections on the same day.

However, if Premier Deuba wants to ensure that elections to all three tiers of government are held on schedule, there is more that he has to do. His ideas so far have been of a technical nature. While difficult, they are not as tough as the political problems he has to resolve. 

First, he has to ensure that all parties are on board for the third phase of local elections in Province 2. The Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal is still divided over how to approach the election, and it is the prime minister’s task to address some of its concerns and convince it to participate in the polls. Second, Deuba needs to ensure that the process of constituency delimitation is concluded in a manner that is uncontroversial and largely acceptable. The Constituency Delimitation Commission has only a short period to complete its work and there are fears that it will not have time to hold broad-based consultations. This could lead to tensions and political dispute. Managing these disputes will be an important challenge for the prime minister and his government in the days ahead.

Published: 31-07-2017 06:57

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