EC’s poll code limited to papers only?While poll observers have said violation of election code of conduct has been rampant, the Election Commission (EC) itself has received many complaints. But when it comes to action, the EC has largely chosen to keep its eyes and ears closed, except issuing a few warnings here and there.
While poll observers have said violation of election code of conduct has been rampant, the Election Commission (EC) itself has received many complaints. But when it comes to action, the EC has largely chosen to keep its eyes and ears closed, except issuing a few warnings here and there.
Interestingly, the poll body on Thursday said it found several incidents of election code of conduct violation during its monitoring, making everyone confused as to whether the EC should be informing about such cases or taking action against those who were involved in flouting the rules.
On Tuesday, the EC sought clarification from the CPN-UML for putting advertisements on different daily newspapers.
This, according to the EC, violated Clause 5 (B) (1) of the Election Code of Conduct. The UML, in response, said the advertisements were put by its well-wishers and not by the party. It promised not to do that again. “The EC then wrote to the UML warning that action will be initiated as per the law if similar actions are repeated,” said Geeta Prasad Timsina, joint attorney general at the EC.
On November 24, the EC sought clarification from Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Kamal Thapa for seeking votes through his twitter posts. Thapa had tweeted those messages during the silent period. EC did not take action after Thapa deleted his tweets saying it was a mistake on his part.
Failure to abide by the code could mean the EC can make the offender pay a fine up to Rs 100,000 or even cancel the candidacy, as per the Election Commission Act. But EC officials claimed that they have not found anybody repeating the offence after the poll body sought clarification from the offenders.
However, election observers say asking clarification from poll code violators will not be enough to discourage parties and candidates from flouting the rules. They say stringent action should be taken against those violating the poll code of conduct.
The EC enforces poll code of conduct laying down different sets of provisions to ensure elections are held in a free and fair manner. The EC is also authorised to take stringent action against poll code violators.
But observers said the EC on almost all occasions has turned a blind eye to poll code violation.
“The EC warned during the local elections that those using T-shirts and caps with election symbols would be penalised. So we are not seeing rampant use of T-shirts and caps for the federal and provincial elections,” said Pradip Pokharel, president of the Election Observation Committee, an election observation body licensed by the EC.
As of November 27, the election body has received 102 complaints of code of conduct violation. The highest number of complaints (30) is against candidates. Complaints in equal numbers have been registered against the government for its decisions of transferring officials, the EC said.
“We have not taken additional measures against code of conduct violators as we have not found them repeating the same mistake,” said Navaraj Dhakal, spokesperson for the EC. Some, however, said the EC’s lenient position is equivalent to saying something like “violate the code but do it differently every time”.