There is a blatant disregard for the Election Code of ConductCandidates running for office—be it at the local, provincial or federal level—have the responsibility to be true to their words and lead by example.
In a democracy, elections are a primary tool to foster political openings and expand political participation. The citizen gets to be a part of the functioning of the government by means of voting, elections also create a sense of responsibility in the leaders. By-elections are taking place on November 30 for 52 posts that have remained vacant due to various reasons such as death, promotion, resignation and imprisonment of the elected representatives. The election is to be held for the post of one member of the House of Representatives, three Provincial Assembly members, one mayor, three chairpersons, one vice-chairperson and 43 ward chairpersons, which have remained vacant in 43 districts.
A month ago, the Election Commission issued a code of conduct keeping the by-elections in mind. But party members seem to be flouting the rules. The Election Commission did mention that party leaders could not travel by chopper to canvass for their respective party members for the election. But senior members from the ruling Nepal Communist Party as well as the opposition party, Nepali Congress, have been flying on helicopters to help garner votes. This begs the question: Who pays for those flights? But our motormouth leaders often maintain a deafening silence when it comes to answering pertinent questions and making themselves accountable.
What’s more, the Election Commission has also found that candidates at various levels have been going to school to campaign; even mobilising school children. The Election Commission currently relies on public complaints, media reports and its own limited vigilance (given the resource constraints) to monitor adherence to the code of conduct. In the future, it will need to be legally empowered to work closely with such institutions as the central bank, Department of Money Laundering Investigation and Department of Revenue Investigation to look into violations of financial disclosure requirements of the candidates’ campaign expenses.
What’s more, elections of late are increasingly becoming sites for unprecedented displays of money and muscle. But to not let this happen and for the elections to be orderly, it is imperative that institutions perform their respective roles. When candidates go about giving flamboyant speeches about the rule of law, and then break the law right and left without batting an eyelid, one can imagine what kind of people's representatives they are going to become if, God forbid, they do get elected.
The Election Commission is a constitutional body that was set up to ensure procedural certainty to affirm democratic outcomes. Since the country has already gone into a federal setup, candidates running for office—be it at the local, provincial or federal level—have the responsibility to be true to their words and lead by example. The best way to start doing that is by adhering to the Election Commission’s code of conduct since free and fair elections, after all, are fundamental to a healthy democracy.
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