Election a costly affairIn an indication of the elections becoming a costly affair, a study carried out by a domestic election observer group has shown that the government, political parties and candidates spent an estimated Rs131.63 billion in total during the three tiers of elections held last year.
In an indication of the elections becoming a costly affair, a study carried out by a domestic election observer group has shown that the government, political parties and candidates spent an estimated Rs131.63 billion in total during the three tiers of elections held last year.
The study by the Election Observation Committee, Nepal (EOC-Nepal) revealed that the government spent Rs34.72 billion while the candidates and their supporters spent as high as Rs96.91 billion in total.
The estimated poll spending by both sides for the local elections stood at Rs69.42 billion while that for the federal and parliamentary elections amounted to Rs62.21 billion.
The study was conducted in two phases: firstly by interviewing 216 candidates for the local elections in four districts. In the second phase, 189 candidates for the federal and provincial elections from 31 districts were asked about their expenditures. Data from the Ministry of Finance and the Election Commission (EC) were gathered to determine the government’s expenditures, according to the report.
The report showed that overall expenditure surged as most of the candidates spent beyond the limit set by the poll authority. For instance, average spending by a first-past-the-post candidate for the House of Representatives stood at Rs10.1 million while that by a candidate for provincial assembly under FPTP accounted for Rs8.1 million. The average spending by a mayoral candidate during the local elections amounted to Rs 1.73 million while a deputy mayor hopeful spent Rs1.38 million on an average.
The expenditure cap set by the EC was Rs2.5 million for an HoR candidate under the FPTP category while it was Rs1.5 million for a provincial assembly FPTP candidate. The ceiling for mayor and deputy mayor candidates was Rs750,000 and Rs550, 000, respectively.
“Although the average expenditure of an HoR candidate hovered above Rs10 million, we found several candidates spending between Rs150 million and Rs250 million,” said Binod Sijapati, the study team leader.
That winning candidates spent more than runner-ups in most cases underscored the role of financing in the poll outcome, the report stated. Average spending by winning candidates in the HoR was Rs21.3 million against Rs14.9 million by the runner-up. “This trend can facilitate elite capture of election results and access to political decisions,” the report said.
Even though large sums of money are funnelled into elections, political parties do not accurately report their costs, candidates seldom maintain records of campaign income and expenditures while business houses do not publish records of their contribution to the candidates and political parties, raising questions over the transparency of campaign financing, the report said.
With an aim to ensure transparency of election financing, the Election Commission had proposed a monitoring committee representing agencies such as the Nepal Rastra Bank and the Department of Money Laundering Investigation. “But the government didn’t take our proposal seriously,” said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav.
Former chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel said checking election cost had emerged as a bigger problem than curbing poll violence lately. “There should be a legal mechanism from which the parties receive funds for campaign,” he said.
The report also pointed to increasing involvement of businessmen and contractors in politics. As many as 48 percent of total candidates for the HoR and the provincial assembly elections had political background while 18 percent came from the agricultural, 12 percent from business and 12 percent from social sectors.
Estimated amount spent by the government, political parties and candidates in the three-tier elections held last year
The government’s expenditure
Spending by the candidates and their supporters
Total expenditures of both sides during local elections
Expenditures for federal and local elections
Average spending by a House of Representatives FPTP candidate
Average spending by a provincial assembly FPTP candidate
Average spending by a mayor candidate
Average spending by a deputy mayor candidate