PM’s move violates poll code but won’t affect elections: EC

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Oct 15, 2017-Amid widespread criticism of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for inducting eight ministers from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party on Friday, a day before the scheduled dissolution of Parliament, President Bidya Devi Bhandari had expedited consultations with experts, including Election Commission (EC) officials.

PM Deuba’s move to induct more ministers into the government on Friday came hours after he signed a commitment paper at the EC saying the government and his party would abide by the election code of conduct, which has been in place since August 30 for the federal and provincial polls to be held on November 26 and December 7.

On Saturday EC officials are learnt to have told President Bhandari that PM Deuba’s move of inducting ministers into his government on Friday “does violate the poll code but does not affect the elections”.

“EC officials told the President that although the Cabinet expansion is against the code of conduct, the government’s move will not affect the planned elections,” said Sushil Pyakurel, political adviser to President Bhandari. 

Some experts, however, say they find the EC statement bizarre, for the main objective of enforcing poll code is ensuring the elections are not affected. Any act that violates poll code automatically means it could affect the polls, they said. When Deuba expanded his Cabinet the last time on September 11, the EC was quick to respond, saying the move violated the poll code. It then  had called for not repeating similar acts in future.

But the EC this time is tight-lipped. Officials at the EC said they “can’t do anything if the government does not abide by the poll code”. 

Election Commissioner Sudhir Shah said the issue is about morality. “The EC can do nothing against the government.” Election experts, however, said the way the EC has dealt with the situation shows how weak and toothless the poll body has become. 

“If the EC considers that government actions like Cabinet expansion can affect environment for holding polls in a free and fair manner, it should not hesitate to issue a warning that it won’t conduct the elections,” said former chief election commissioner Nil Kantha Upretri. 

Published: 15-10-2017 07:50

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