As alliance parties threaten rebel candidates, Election Commission says that’s criminal actThe election body states that the threats violate citizens’ legal and constitutional right to take part in elections.
This week, the five-party ruling coalition issued two separate statements, on Wednesday and Friday, threatening their rebel candidates to withdraw nominations for the local-level elections or face expulsion.
Nepali Congress President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba issued an appeal on Thursday urging his party’s leaders and cadres contesting the elections as rebel candidates to withdraw their candidacies and support official candidates of the five-party alliance.
But the election body and observers have questioned the political parties’ activities saying their threats violate individual citizens’ constitutional and legal rights to contest polls.
Citing these developments, the Election Commission on Friday issued a press statement asking the political parties not to use coercion, fear and threat against the candidates. These measures, the election body said, would violate the citizens’ inherent constitutional and legal right to take part in politics, to file their candidacy, become elected and involved in the governance.
“The Election Commission’s serious attention has been drawn to reports that some candidates are being threatened, intimidated and lured into withdrawing their nominations,” stated the press statement issued by the Commission on Friday.
The election body has asked political parties to respect the individual rights of the candidates on whether to withdraw their nominations and has also requested the parties, their sister wings and candidates to abide by election-related laws and not to issue any threat, fear or terrorise the candidates or their family members.
“Issuing threats and terrorising the candidates or their family members would be tantamount to election-related crime and violation of the code of conduct,” states the release. “Therefore we would request the parties to respect democracy and civil rights, and remind them not to repeat such activities that go against the election code of conduct.”
A meeting of the five-party coalition on Friday again decided to make sure that the rebel candidates from the coalition-member parties for mayor and deputy mayor posts in six metropolitan cities and 11 sub-metropolitan cities withdraw from the electoral race.
The five-party alliance’s decision follows refusal by some rebel leaders, particularly from the Nepali Congress, to withdraw their candidacies.
“All other nominations for mayor and deputy mayor in six metropolitan cities and 11 sub-metropolitan cities filed against the agreement will be immediately withdrawn,” states the statement issued after the meeting on Friday.
They have also decided to annul all the electoral alliances forged by local committees with parties outside the coalition. If those alliances are not annulled, parties concerned will take action against those committees, the statement reads.
Again on Friday morning, Nepali Congress issued a notice asking all the candidates who have filed nominations against the official candidates of the five-party alliance to withdraw their nominations by 5pm Friday.
The party has warned that the rebel candidates, their proposers and supporters would be automatically expelled from the party as per the Section 4(13) of the party’s statute.
One of the major constituents of the five-party alliance, CPN (Maoist Centre), has also issued similar statements warning all its rebel candidates to withdraw from the race. The party’s different district committees have already expelled a few of such mutineer candidates.
With constant pressure from the party, two of the three rebel candidates for mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City from Nepali Congress, Nanda Tiwari and Rishi Sapkota, withdrew their candidacies on Friday.
Congress’ rebel candidate in Bharatpur Metropolitan City, Jagannath Poudel, has been expelled from the party after he refused to withdraw his nomination even after the party president’s request. Not only Poudel, Krishna Lal Sapkota, who proposed Poudel’s candidacy, and Mina Kharel, who seconded the proposal, have also been expelled from the party, according to the Congress press statement issued on Friday morning.
Former chief election commissioners have said it was a positive move on the part of the election body to request the political parties not to issue any kind of threat or show any temptation to the candidates after failing to ensure them election tickets.
“For free and fair polls, it is not good to issue threats to the candidates as they have constitutional right to contest polls,” said Neil Kantha Upreti, former chief election commissioner. “Parties have to sort out their issues internally.”
Upreti said the political parties have messed with democracy in Nepal and their activities, including the attempt to force candidates to withdraw, are inappropriate. “With such acts of threatening the candidates, the parties seemed to be spoiling the environment,” Upreti told the Post. “Candidates also have the right to contest as independent candidates.”
Issuing threats against candidates, according to Upreti, is also against the election code of conduct and the election body has to take the issue seriously.
Another former chief election commissioner, Bhojraj Pokharel, said the issue of rebel candidates erupted because party top leaderships unilaterally imposed their decisions on their local committees. “It’s also the question of justice to the candidates,” Pokharel said. “They should have developed a proper criteria for selecting candidates.”