Preparations for local polls begin amid concerns from some ruling partiesCPN (Maoist Centre) and CPN (Unified Socialist) want all three elections to be held in a single phase in November.
While some of the ruling parties are for holding elections to all tiers of government in November next year, the government has started preparations for local elections following last week’s proposal from the Election Commission.
During a meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on December 24, a team of officials from the Election Commission led by Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapaliya proposed that the elections be held on April 27. At the meeting attended by Minister for Home Affairs Bal Krishna Khand, Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and Dilendra Badu, minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Thapaliya’s team recommended April 27 and May 5 as the dates for the elections if the government wants to conduct them in two phases.
“The local elections will be held on time as suggested by the Election Commission,” said Khand at a press meet in Pokhara on Friday. The commission has asked the government to announce the election date at least 100 days in advance. Ishwari Poudel, an election commissioner, said they suggested the dates during their meeting on December 24. “We will formally recommend dates if the government agrees to conduct the elections based on our proposal,” he told the Post.
The government has the authority to announce election dates based on the recommendation of the commission. Deuba after the meeting with the commission discussed local elections with his ministers.
“The government has started its preparations. It has already held meetings with the security agencies,” said a minister from the Janata Samajbadi Party, on the condition of anonymity. “However, the dates will be fixed only after a discussion with the parties in the ruling alliance and the opposition.”
Deuba will be discussing elections with various political parties after the conclusion of the general convention of the CPN (Maoist Centre). As per the existing schedule, the eighth general convention of the party will conclude Sunday. In the five-party ruling alliance, the Maoist Centre and the CPN (Unified Socialist) have openly stood against holding local polls in April and May. They want the elections for all tiers of government to be held in a single phase in November.
The commission, however, says the existing law doesn’t allow postponing the local elections to November. On May 14, 2017, the country held the first phase of local elections in 34 districts of three provinces—Bagmati, Gandaki and Karnali. Article 225 of the Constitution of Nepal says the term of local governments shall be five years from the date of the election.
However, in Clause 55 of the Local Level Election Act, 2016, the terms of local representatives start from the seventh day of the election date. As the first phase of local elections was held on May 14, 2017 the terms of the local representatives are deemed to have begun from May 20. This means new representatives must be elected by then so as to avoid a vacuum.
The government must come up with a new Act if it wants to defer the local polls by six months as per Article 225. However, the government has not registered any such bill in the parliament yet. There are slim chances that any of such bills will be endorsed by the parliament as there is less than a month for the government to announce the election dates so as to give 100 days for preparations.
“The existing law doesn’t allow postponing the local elections,” said Poudel. The commission has sought Rs 12 billion from the government for the local polls. “Discussions for local elections have started,” Finance Secretary Madhu Marasini told the Post, adding, “The ministry has already allocated Rs 10 billion for local polls.”
The leaders from the ruling alliance, however, say they don’t think local elections will be held in April-May. “We are for conducting all–local, provincial and federal–elections simultaneously,” Bedu Ram Bhusal, a general secretary of the Unified Socialist, told the Post. “The parties will hold discussions before announcing a date for local elections.”