Poll body eyeing general, provincial elections in November in one phaseOfficials say they are set to meet the prime minister within a week with their plans.
The Election Commission is preparing to suggest November for holding federal and provincial elections in a single phase.
A team of the commission is holding a meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba with the suggestion that the elections can be held by the third week of November.
“The commission is of the view that the federal and provincial elections should be held no later than November third week (first week of the Nepali month of Mangsir),” Dinesh Thapaliya, the chief election commissioner, told the Post. “Holding elections in mountain districts will be tough at a later date due to the cold temperatures.”
As per the election laws, the government announces the poll dates in consultation with the Election Commission.
Thapaliya said they will be meeting the prime minister within a week to suggest the election dates.
In 2017, the elections for the House of Representatives and the seven provincial assemblies were held in two phases. The first phase of elections was held on November 26 and the second on December 7.
According to the commission, like the local elections that were held in a single phase on May 13, it is aiming to conduct the federal and provincial elections also in a single phase.
“The commission’s position is that elections should be held in a single phase. We have already started internal preparations,” said Shaligram Sharma Poudel, spokesperson of the commission. “However, if the government says otherwise it can be conducted in two phases.”
The commission is starting voter registration for the general elections from Wednesday. A total of 17,733,723 adults had enrolled themselves for the local elections, and the commission believes this number will increase by tens of thousands.
The commission’s preparation is in line with what Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has been saying about the election date.
During a brief interaction with the Post earlier this month Deuba said that elections would be held within November.
Officials at the commission say as the voter registration work has to be halted once the election dates are announced, they want the government to declare the election dates by allowing at least a month for registration.
As per Article 85, the term of the House of Representatives will be of five years unless dissolved earlier. It, however, doesn’t say which date to take as the beginning of its term.
In lack of clear provisions about the beginning and expiry of the term, the commission is preparing to take December 8 as the date of commencement of the tenure as per the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly Elections Acts.
Section 58 of both the Acts say the polling officer, after counting the votes from all the booths, will announce the winner under the first-past-the-post system from the respective constituency.
Thapaliya said they have decided to take December 8, when the winners of both federal and provincial elections under the first-past-the-post category were announced, as the date of commencement.
The legal fraternity is divided over the cutoff date for the calculation of the tenure.
Some say that the House’s life should be counted from the date of the first phase of elections five years ago. The first phase of the 2017 elections was held on November 25. Similarly, there is also a dominant view that the House tenure must be counted from its first meeting.
The current House held its first meeting on March 5, 2018.
Some even argue that the date for the commencement of the tenure must be counted from the day the commission presented the final election results to the President’s Office.
Then chief election commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav had submitted the final results to President Bidya Devi Bhandari on February 14, 2018.
“We had to make some decisions on the cutoff date for clarity,” said Thapaliya. “Our decision is logical.”
The parties in the ruling alliance also have discussed election dates and there has been a broad agreement for November last week or December first week. However, the five parties haven’t held serious discussions on the cutoff date for determination of the Parliament’s tenure.
Durga Poudel, vice-chairperson of the Rastriaya Janamorcha, said there is a broad understanding that the five-year term as stated in the constitution ends in Mangsir (November-December). “I don’t think this is a big issue. As the previous elections were held in Mangsir (in two phases on November 26 and December 7), the upcoming elections should also be held in the same month,” she told the Post. “The next meeting of the coalition will hold a detailed discussion and fix an exact date.”