Elections becoming ‘unnaturally expensive’Elections have become excessively expensive, according to a study carried out by a poll observer, which said a rough calculation shows Rs 5,000 was spent on each voter during the local elections.
Binod Ghimire & Prithivi Shrestha
Elections have become excessively expensive, according to a study carried out by a poll observer, which said a rough calculation shows Rs 5,000 was spent on each voter during the local elections.
The Election Observation Committee (EOC), a poll monitoring body authorised by the Election Commission (EC), shows Rs 69.42 billion was spent during the local elections which were held in three phases in May, June and September. The amount is twice the budget for building Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower, the largest hydroelectric project in the country.
If the total number of registered voters for local elections, which stood at 14.1 million, is taken into account, Rs 4,923 was spent on each individual.
The calculation was made by including the expenditure by the EC, security agencies and to some extent by different observation groups. It also includes expenditure by the state and the candidates. In four districts, people were interviewed and asked to fill the questionnaire.
As many as 216 people, including those who had won the elections and those who had lost, were interviewed and asked to fill the questionnaire.
The report shows around 63 percent of the total expenditure was made by the candidates.
As many as 148,362 candidates who were in the race for mayoral, deputy mayoral, chair and deputy chair, ward chair and ward member posts spent Rs 50.95 billion in campaigning.
The report claims that some Rs 11.80 billion was wasted as 17 percent votes were invalid, which means the money spent on those votes was useless.
“I won’t be surprised if the total expenditure was double than our calculation,” Binod Sijapati, the lead researcher, told the Post, adding that it was difficult to calculate the exact figure as candidates were reluctant to open up about their spending.
Though the EC had set the expenditure ceiling of Rs 750,000 for mayoral candidates, the candidates were found to have spent double.
Similar was the case with candidates for other posts like deputy mayor and rural municipality chair and deputy chair.
“This is a worrying situation,” said Surya Nath Upadhyay, former chief commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), during a programme organised to unveil the study findings. “Country like ours can’t bear such huge expenditure.” He called for creating a pool fund from which the parties and candidates should be funded.
The expenditure limit set by the EC for parliamentary elections has itself grown by 38 times over the last 27 years, according to the EC. “Based on current demands for election budget by the EC and security agencies and expected expenditure that the candidates are likely to make, at least Rs 70 billion will be spent in the upcoming federal and provincial elections,” said former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety, at an interaction organised by Transparency International Nepal, a nonprofit corruption watchdog, on Wednesday.