Civil society urges government to announce local election dateCivil society leaders have urged the government to announce the date for local elections by the end of November and also pass related bills in order to create an environment for holding the polls in April.
Civil society leaders have urged the government to announce the date for local elections by the end of November and also pass related bills in order to create an environment for holding the polls in April.
The government has announced to hold local level elections in April, followed by provincial and federal elections by December 2017 as envisaged by the new constitution. They also expressed concern over the parties’ lack of seriousness to hold the elections citing that successive governments had been postponing the election date.
They claim that announcing the date within a week will give the Election Commission at least three months to prepare for the local elections which were last held in the country in 1997.
“Local elections are the base of democracy and good governance in the country. The absence of elected local leaders has hampered our development,” said Gopal Krishna Shiwakoti, general secretary of the Nepal Election Observation Coordination Group (NEOC).
The Election Commission finalised two months ago five essential bills—Local Election Procedure Act, Political Parties-related Act, Election Commission Act, Election (Offence and Punishment) Act and Act on Voter List—and submitted them to the government for necessary paperwork before tabling them in Parliament.
So far the government has tabled only three bills—the Bill to Amend and Integrate Laws related to the Election Commission, Bill Related to Voters’ List and Bill to Amend and Integrate Laws Related to Political Parties—while it has revised the two others.
There are also calls to include a provision for state funding for political parties and sanctions and remedies with respect to violation of the code of conduct to promote fair elections. Civil society leaders have also requested the government to appoint three more commissioners as the EC is functioning with just two commissioners. They have also called to guarantee the independence of the Election Commission by granting it the authority to set the election date and manage permanent staff.
These specific clauses were included in the Election Commission Bill and Political Parties Bill forwarded by the EC. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice have withdrawn these provisions. Civil society leaders have also cautioned against not pushing the election dates back in the name of local level restructuring. Local elections must be held in April as specified by the government whether or not the Local Level Restructuring Commission submits its recommendations, said Kapil Shrestha, vice-chairman of the NEOC.
Those working for the rights of the disabled have also expressed their concern over the Electoral Bill provision for delisting of voters of “unsound mind”, demanding its removal. “This provision is subjective and may disenfranchise many legitimate voters with disability,” said Tika Dahal, general secretary of the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal.