Time bound

  • To hold elections in a single phase, govt should prioritise crucial electoral legislation

Aug 24, 2017-It is understandable why the government is so keen to hold elections to both the Federal Legislature and the Provincial Assemblies on a single date, November 26. Delayed elections have been a major problem in Nepal over the past decade, and the government has often been criticised for its slow work. The government, it appears, wishes to avoid such criticism. Furthermore, this time it is essential that all elections are completed before the constitutional deadline of  January 21, 2018. A failure to do so would jeopardise the constitutional legitimacy of the current Parliament, and possibly also the Constitution itself.

In addition, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is particularly keen to hold elections on schedule for the sake of his legacy. The last time he was prime minister, he was removed from office precisely because he couldn’t hold elections on schedule. He wishes to avoid recrimination this time around.

Nonetheless, while political calculations are one thing, logistical complications present another challenge. The Election Commission (EC) has stated that it would be difficult to hold federal and provincial elections simultaneously. Under pressure from the government, the EC initially proposed to hold the two elections in two different phases. And eventually, it accepted the government’s plan to hold elections in a single phase. However, though the EC continues to state that it is committed to fulfilling the government’s orders, there are concerns within the commission regarding whether or not this will be feasible. In particular, the institution is worried that it might not be able to print ballot papers for the entire country by November 26. For this reason, it has once again requested the government to hold elections in two phases—on November 20 and December 7. 

The government would do well to listen to the EC’s concerns. In fact, the plan to hold elections in two phases will likely not cause the complications that the parties fear; all parties appear on board to contest elections, even the Madhesi groups. Besides, while political parties are urging the EC to hold elections on a single date in November, they have not held up their end of the bargain. Crucial electoral legislation, and the report of the Electoral Constituency Delineation Commission (ECDC), is yet to be completed. The EC can begin its preparations only after it has received these. If the government wants to hold elections in a single phase, it should prioritise the endorsement of election-related bills from Parliament and ensure that the ECDC completes its report on time. Hasty elections could lead to significant problems in areas such as ballot distribution, security planning and high numbers of invalid votes. It would be better to tackle all of these issues carefully, and allow the EC adequate time to complete all of its work properly. 

Published: 24-08-2017 07:58

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