Poll authority appears afraid to take action for code violationsDespite rampant code violations including unlawful use of vehicles, commission’s response is little.
On October 12, the Election Commission sought a written clarification from CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal for breaching the election code of conduct while filing his nomination from Gorkha-2 on October 9.
Dahal, allegedly, had reached the election office with a procession using the Panche baja, a traditional musical instrument, to submit his nomination papers. The election code of conduct that came into force on September 28 bans fanfare during nominations.
However, nearly a month since the clarification was sought with Dahal, the Election Commission is yet to take a decision on the matter.
Separately, the Election Commission, on Monday, sought another clarification from Dahal for donning a cap with his party’s election symbol during an election rally.
Similarly, the commission on October 24 and October 28 had sought clarification from Nepali Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa, a candidate from Kathmandu-4, for pledging free diagnosis and treatment for dengue patients. The commission sought the clarification saying Thapa was trying to influence the voters in elections.
However, the commission is yet to take any action on the matter other than seeking a clarification from the candidate.
According to Yagya Bhattarai, a joint secretary at the commission, they have sought clarification from 87 people after receiving complaints of code of conduct violations. “We have imposed fine in one case, while investigations are ongoing in others,” he told the Post. “The commission is committed to implementing the code of conduct. However, we need concrete proof before taking any stern action.”
The commission has the authority to book the candidates who violate the code of conduct. Clause 46(1) of the election code says that those violating it can be subjected to a fine of Rs100,000 or cancellation of their candidacies as per the Election Commission Act.
Election observers, however, accuse the commission of being afraid to take action against the violators, limiting itself to seeking clarifications.
Pradip Pokharel, chairperson of the Election Observation Committee, Nepal said election code violations are rampant across the country.
Rallies with dozens of vehicles as well as hate speeches and feasts are quite common in most constituencies. “The code of conduct violation is not going to stop until the commission goes beyond seeking clarifications,” Pokharel told the Post.
The code bars the use of more than two vehicles in one constituency. There cannot be more than 10 party flags in mass rallies and one in the vehicle used in publicity campaigns. Similarly, any sort of feasts, use of children and the use of large banners are prohibited.
As the voting day inches closer, the competition among political parties is getting intense right across the country. As many as 275 lawmakers for the lower house, including 110 from proportional representation system, and 550 members—330 under the direct elections and 220 under proportional representation—for the seven provincial assemblies, will be elected from the upcoming polls.
According to the Election Commission, 2,412 candidates are vying for the 165 directly-elected seats from different political parties and in independent capacity. Similarly, 3,224 candidates are trying their luck in provincial assemblies.
Election observers say winning is the sole objective of candidates and they will happily breach the code to do so. “We cannot imagine free and fair elections until the code of conduct is strictly implemented,” said Pokharel. “The commission must dare to fine the candidates or even cancel their candidacy, if necessary. It would set the precedent for the future as well.”