Poll body continues election preparations while ignoring the dispute in Nepal Communist PartyAfter it said 30-day deadline for claiming legitimacy had passed, Dahal-Nepal faction submitted another set of papers which the poll body is studying.
On Friday the Election Commission issued a statement saying that preparations for midterm elections slated for April 30 and May 10 have intensified.
“The tasks related to preparations of the election programme, introduction of election code of conduct, procurement plan, procurement of election materials, budget estimate, preparation of election security plan, voters’ education programme have moved ahead in a speedy way,” the commission said.
The elephant in the room—in the form of the dispute of legitimacy of the Nepal Communist Party—however continues to be ignored.
With just 70 days remaining before the first phase of elections, the dispute in the Nepal Communist Party, which is practically split but technically united, has emerged as the major challenge for holding the elections.
“The political environment for the election will not be created without settling the dispute in the ruling party,” said Kapil Shrestha, vice-president of Nepal Election Observation Committee, an institution which has long been observing the elections.
Elections, of course, depend on whether the Supreme Court will uphold the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
But the election body has been showing no urgency in settling the dispute of the Nepal Communist Party. On February 2, the faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal laid claim over the party at the Election Commission as per Section 44 of the Political Parties Act which has provisions to claim legitimacy in case of dispute within a party.
Earlier, the commission on January 24 had refused to recognise either of the factions as the authentic Nepal Communist Party after both factions—one led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the other by Dahal and Nepal—failed to lay claim to the party as per clause 44 (1) of the Political Parties Act 2017.
As per this provision, a faction that seeks to claim the ownership of the original party, stamp, flag and symbol needs to submit papers with all the documents to the commission along with signatures of at least 40 percent of the party’s Central Committee members within 30 days after a dispute arises.
After the claims are made as per this provision, the commission needs to seek a written response from the rival faction by giving a 15-day deadline as per section 44 (2) of the Act.
But the officials at the commission said that it is yet to seek a response from the Oli faction even 17 days after the Dahal-Nepal faction claimed legitimacy.
“Letter has not been sent to the Oli faction yet,” said Raj Kumar Shrestha, spokesperson at the commission. “It is the issue that the office-bearers of the commission need to decide.”
Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal said that the commission was still studying the claims made by the Dahal-Nepal faction.
“Once our study concludes, we will take the necessary decision regarding the matter,” he told the Post.
As per the Political Parties Act-2017, after receiving response from the rival faction, the commission needs to first allow rival factions to settle their disputes.
Only if they fail to settle their dispute, does the commission need to give legitimacy to the faction which can prove the majority support in the Central Committee that existed before the dispute while allowing the rival faction to register a new party as per section 44 (6) of the Political Parties Act.
According to officials at the commission, it is in a dilemma to take a decision as the Dahal-Nepal faction registered an application seeking legitimacy after the deadline for submitting the application had expired.
The dispute in the party surfaced after both factions held separate Central Committee meetings of their own on December 22–two days after President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20 on the recommendation of Oli and announced fresh elections.
As per Section 44 (1) of the Political Parties Act-2017, a faction making claims of legitimacy to represent the party, should submit an application within 30 days after the dispute arose.
When the Dahal-Nepal faction made claims, it had already been 42 days past the day the party got into the dispute.
But the Dahal-Nepal faction disagrees that the deadline of making claims is the reason why the commission is undecided.
“We had asked the commission to update the party’s decision of removing KP Sharma Oli from the post of chair (on December 22),” said Lilamani Pokhrel, Standing Committee member of the Nepal Communist Party representing the Dahal-Nepal faction.
“After the commission refused to update our Central Committee’s decision and decided to maintain 441-memeber Central Committee as it is in its record book, dispute in the party officially begun,” said Pokharel
On January 24, the commission had refused to give legitimacy to either faction arguing that both factions failed to follow the statute of the party in their decision making.
By refusing to accept an enlarged Central Committee by the Oli faction, the commission had recognised the 441-member Central Committee formed after the merger between erstwhile CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Centre) in 2018. Oli on December 22, had unilaterally expanded the Central Committee to 1,199 members which was later expanded further to 1,501.
Pokharel claimed that his faction made claims of legitimacy in less than 10 days after the dispute officially began in the party. The Dahal-Nepal faction has, however, been wary about the commission’s delay in making a decision even after the faction submitted an application claiming legitimacy to represent the Nepal Communist Party.
“Since we registered applications on February 2, we have twice requested the commission to take an early decision,” said Pokharel. “We are surprised that the commission is yet to proceed ahead regarding our application. How can the commission hold an election by ignoring the dispute in the party which had nearly two-thirds of the seats in the controversially dissolved Parliament.”
The commission is taking time to decide on the dispute of the party although it is finalising the task of updating voters’ list and determining polling centres.
“The commission appears to be hesitating to take a decision inviting doubt if the commission is under the influence of the government,” said Shrestha of Nepal Election Observation Committee.