EC gears up for separate ballots

October 30, 2017

The Kathmandu Post, 30 Oct 2017

Honouring the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Election Commission is finally preparing to print two separate ballot papers for the first-past-the-post category of the federal parliamentary and provincial assembly elections without deferring the scheduled polls.

The commission, after consultation with the Office of the Attorney General on Sunday, agreed to opt for two ballots for the elections set to be held together in two phases.

The EC will take a formal decision to this effect on Monday after submitting its report to the apex court on the progress in printing separate ballots. With the decision, there will be three ballot papers, instead of two, in the polls taking place on November 26 and December 7.

A single bench of Justice Dambar Bahadur Shahi had ordered the EC on October 25 to ensure separate ballots for the FPTP polls and present a report outlining efforts made on that front since its earlier ruling on October 18. The court delivered the letter to the EC on Saturday, seeking the details, prompting the poll authority to consult with legal experts.

“We view the SC’s ruling positively. We will reach a proper decision regarding ballot papers on Monday,” Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav told the Post. He said the decision will be taken without affecting the election schedule.

The EC had cited time constraints in using separate ballot papers for the polls. The commission was all set to print the ballot for federal parliamentary polls on top of that for provincial assemblies on the same sheet.

The arrangement is the same for proportional representation election where the ballot for the federal parliamentary vote has been positioned at the top of the provincial assembly poll paper.

The new decision will apply only to the FPTP election as the EC has already printed the required number of ballot papers for proportional representation election.

Though election officials claimed that they started preparing FPTP ballots on Friday, sources at the state-owned Janak Shiksha Samagri Kendra, where the papers are being printed, said not a single ballot was produced on the day.

Rastriya Janata Party Nepal leader Sarbendra Nath Shukla on October 8 knocked on the SC’s door seeking separate ballot papers.

Though the SC refused to issue an interim order as demanded by him, it asked the poll body to seriously consider printing separate ballot papers for the FPTP vote since it had already completed printing of those for the proportional election.

In a step forward, the SC on Wednesday sought detailed updates within three days.