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Nepal election office asks parties to clear air on polls
Publication Date : 11-10-2012
With most of its commissioners retiring in January and political parties still unclear on fresh elections, Nepal's Election Commission yesterday asked 93 registered political parties, including the governing ones, to come up with a clear position on the polls.
Local bodies have been running without elected peoples' representatives for the last 11 years, but parties, who had earlier agreed to go for fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, are now indecisive.
"The EC is technically prepared to hold any form of elections. We want to know what preparations are being carried out from the government's side and what kind of elections is it planning to hold," acting Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety told representatives of the parties in a meeting in Kathmandu.
The EC fears that the government's plans to hold elections may be deferred for years if the parties don't take a call on time.
Saying that periodic elections are key foundations of a democracy he expressed dissatisfaction over the "negligence" of the parties. "We always talk about democracy, but questions are now being raised on the parties themselves being democratic," he said.
EC officials expressed their willingness to hold local elections even if parties were not able to forge consensus. "If the parties desire, the Commission is well prepared to hold even local elections," said EC spokesperson Sharada Prasad Trital.
The EC, which has taken tough measures to modernise the electoral system by making it more free, fair and transparent, has proposed seven electoral laws for amendment and is working to introduce electronic voting machines (EVM). Voters are also being registered with photographic and bio-metric information.
A total of 10.8 million voters are registered under the digital voter registration system.
In the meeting, the EC urged the government to take initiatives to purchase EVMs from India if it wants to hold elections in April. According to officials, EVMs cost 1.64 billion rupees (US$19.27 million) and that purchasing them will take at least six months.
"A state-owned Indian company has informed us that it will take six months after the order to manufacture the EVMs," said Trital.
The EC further urged Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and ministers concerned to allocate funds for their procurement.
The EC also requires 150,000 electronic ballot units and 55,000 control units, excluding batteries and totalizers, EC officials said. The EC has said that the government's plan to hold elections in April will not materialise if the government delays allocating a budget for the EVMs.
According to the officials, the EC cannot backtrack from its plans to go digital.
Nepali Congress leader Man Bahadur Bishwakarma told the meeting that electronic voting would help make the polls relatively free and fair. "However, we are not totally convinced that the EVMs are error-free," he said.
Leaders suggested that the EC hold local elections to check increasing corruption in local bodies.
"Development budget has been largely misused. It is learnt that up to 87 arrears are seen in local bodies as no elections have been held for the past 15 years," said Birendra Thapaliya, central committee member of the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninst).
Agni Kharel, central committee member of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, pointed out the need for local elections, citing complexities for parliamentary and CA elections.
"Even if the constitution is drafted today, it will take four to five years to settle the issue of federalism and local bodies cannot run without elections for years," he said.