Against odds, EC sets stage for May 14 polls

May 02, 2017

My Republica, Bhadra Sharma, 2nd May 2017, Kathmandu

Despite confusion over the polls taking place, the Election Commission (EC) has set the stage for the first phase of local elections scheduled for May 14 as announced by the government. 

A day before the nomination of candidacies, the election body said all preparations for the elections are now complete and the polls will take place as scheduled. "There is no confusion about the holding of polls. We are confident and are fully prepared for the elections, which must happen," said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav. 

As  part of conducting the polls in two phases, the government has announced elections for 283 local units in 34 districts on May 14 and elections for the remaining local units on June 14. "Chief returning officers and returning officers deployed from the commission are waiting for you all, including women, Dalits, and marginalized communities in the local units. Make your way to the commission and file your candidacies," said Yadav at a special press conference organized at EC headquarters. 

Stating that the upcoming elections have opened greater avenues for the marginalized and are a test of the new constitution, the election chief said at least 40 percent women representation has been ensured in the local units and among either the chiefs or deputy chiefs of local units. As per the EC's program, the candidates can file their nominations for local elections from 10 am to 5 pm. 

CEC Yadav said the government has arranged foolproof security with a three-tier security system and called on the parties to participate in the elections without any fear. "The government has fully guaranteed law and order for us. And we urge all voters to participate in the elections," said Yadav. 

To date, the EC has established the offices of chief returning officers and returning officers and the election materials, i.e. ballot papers, ballot boxes, voter rolls and voter IDs have already been transported to the local units. Security personnel from the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, Nepal Police and the National Investigation Department have  been deployed for election purposes. 

Meanwhile, the political parties have tentatively finalized their candidates for the elections in Provinces 3,4 and 6. "Our party has instructed the party leaders and cadres to field candidates for local elections in accordance with the program set out by the Election Commission," said main opposition CPN-UML Spokesperson Yogesh Bhattarai. 

Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center), Rastriya Prajatantra Party and other parties are also preparing to field candidates for the first round of elections. 

Despite the preparations by the EC and the commitment of major political parties, confusion over the polls materialising is rife among the public following Sunday's unexpected political developments triggered by the government's move to impeach Chief Justice Sushila Karki. This has raised questions whether the polls, which are taking place after a gap of 19 years, could be deferred because of the political wranglings.

The  decision of the NC and Maoist-led coalition to register an impeachment motion against CJ Karki  has prompted Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi to resign from his position. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, another key partner in the current coalition government, has withdrawn its support from the government. 

EC officials are worried that the security situation could be compromised as the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is considered the second most important institution after the Office of the Prime Minister, is now headless. 

Experts have suggested the EC take the lead in holding the elections even if the government deviates from this. "Since the poll date has already been announced, the EC should now lead the entire election process as it is not necessary to wait for the government," said former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety.