Election Commission to notify donors about potential areas of cooperation to hold electionsOfficials to allocate budget for elections from internal resources while keeping door open for assistance in kind.
The Election Commission plans to inform the donors about the election preparations and share the potential areas where donors could assist to hold the midterm elections scheduled for April 30 and May 10.
As a part of consultation with the stakeholders, the commission plans to hold a consultation with the donors community on Monday.
After President Bidya Devi Bhandari on December 20 dissolved the House of Representatives and announced the elections as per recommendation of the KP Sharma Oli-led government, the election body is preparing to hold a consultation with the donors.
Even though the question over the constitutionality of the Oli’s move to dissolve the House is being heard at the Supreme Court, the commission has started preparing for the polls, arguing that it is legally bound to hold the elections since the poll dates have already been announced.
“As per our request, the Finance Ministry is organising the meeting,” said Komal Prasad Dhamala, assistant spokesperson for the commission. “During the meeting, we will notify them about the election preparations and potential areas where foreign assistance could be required.”
He, however, said that the commission would not seek any assistance immediately with the donors.
The commission has a history of taking foreign assistance in holding the elections. According to the Finance Ministry, most of the donors have been invited for the meeting.
India had provided 50 vehicles to the commission worth Rs190 million China provided stationery items worth Rs140 million required for holding the local elections in 2017.
The United Nations Development Programme had provided electronic equipment including computers for the elections. But the government decided not to take further assistance from the donors for the provincial and federal elections.
Previously, several donors had supported the commission in holding past two constitution assembly elections in 2008 and 2013. The commission has adopted the policy as per which it could take foreign assistance in the areas of infrastructure, equipment, information communication technology, voters’ education and capacity building and training, according to Dhamala.
The government has been reluctant to receive foreign aid for holding the elections lately to prevent any influence of foreigners in crucial tasks like holding elections.
Finance Secretary Sishir Dhungana told the Post last week that the government would essentially allocate resources for elections from the internal resources.
“The government is open to accept the commodity assistance and equipment from the donors if they provide them in grant,” he said.
Another official of the ministry told the Post that even though the government’s policy has been not to accept foreign aid in elections, it was ready to accept assistance in areas which are beyond the capacity of the government and capacity development of the electoral staff.
Officials at the ministry said that it would be more flexible in accepting assistance this time, because of growing financial burden on the government due to reduced revenue amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In fact, the commission has already submitted a list of areas to the Finance Ministry where foreign assistance could be received, according to Dhamala. In the last federal and provincial elections, over 50 types of election materials were used, according to the commission.
The government is increasingly taking foreign aid amid decreasing revenue. Revenue collection of the government stood at Rs434.8 billion as of January 23 this fiscal year. The revenue collection stood at Rs445.6 billion in the same period last fiscal year.
But, it has the responsibility of generating additional resources for the Covid-19 vaccines and holding elections.
According to the Health Ministry, it would require around Rs48 billion for vaccination drive against Covid-19.
On January 13, the government published a notice seeking contributions from businesses, philanthropic organisations and donor agencies to procure vaccines.
The election body has estimated that around Rs8 billion would be required minus the resources needed for security agency mobilisation, based on the past election expenditure, to hold the midterm elections. But it is yet to determine the exact required amount.
“We have asked the Election Commission and security agencies how much budget they would require to hold the planned elections,” said Dhungana.