Poll cycle in ‘advance stage’, no turning back now: EC chiefQuelling speculations that the May 14 local level elections could either be cancelled or postponed in view of possible security challenges, particularly in Province 2, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav on Tuesday expressed confidence that the elections will go ahead as planned.
Quelling speculations that the May 14 local level elections could either be cancelled or postponed in view of possible security challenges, particularly in Province 2, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav on Tuesday expressed confidence that the elections will go ahead as planned.
“The election cycle is already in ‘advance stage’ now, and it is too late to roll it back, as the polls are less than a month away,” said CEC Yadav in his first interaction with a select group of newspaper editors. “All the preparations have been completed; election materials are being delivered to polling centres and booths, and voter education programme is just about to start. Ballot papers have been printed, ballot boxes assembled, indelible ink stored and voter lists put together.”
The EC chief’s assertion that polls would move ahead as planned comes amid growing concerns over security challenges and the lack of an agreement with the agitating Madhes-based parties which have announced protests and vowed to disrupt the polls.
During Tuesday’s media interaction, most questions revolved around security concerns, particularly in Province 2 in the event of the Madhes-based parties boycotting the polls. Stating that he was witness to similar kind of apprehensions in the last two elections (2008 and 2013), Yadav, who is in his third term in the Election Commission, said, “… yet the elections did take place in spite of strong resistance from some political groups and several attendant movements and their calls for boycott.”
Yadav’s remarks on Tuesday follow Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi’s Monday morning tweet, in which he had pointed to the need for larger political buy-in from the Madhesi parties. “The EC & security arrangement aren’t sufficient; political settlements through dialogues among the parties is must for successful elections,” Nidhi had tweeted, causing quite a furore, especially in social media.
Though the EC on Monday said it was dismayed by Home Minister Nidhi’s tweet, its chief on Tuesday termed the furore over it “a minor incident”. “I consider it a minor incident. Many things of this nature do happen during elections and may happen again,” he said. “What is important is that we need to move on and hold the elections.”
While there is unanimity across the political spectrum that Nidhi’s assertion is well founded, for it seeks to avoid political backlash and possible violence, the wee-hour tweet met with criticism from leaders, civil society members and social media users, forcing the home minister to go into a damage control mode.
Nidhi’s party, the Nepali Congress, however, appears to be a divided house. While NC chief Sher Bahadur Deuba, who had been insisting that polls should take place in single phase, said on Tuesday in Jhapa that the NC “is ready for two-phase polls if the Madhes-based parties agree to participate”, senior NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel has maintained that polls should be held in single phase.
The EC chief though appeared firm on Tuesday on holding polls on May 14, he had earlier raised concerns over the lack of political consensus. Last month, CEC Yadav had urged Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal to create a conducive environment wherein all political forces could be accommodated. On Tuesday also, he urged both the media and the political parties to make atmosphere “even more conducive” for the elections.