Ensure election integrity

Published On: April 23, 2023 07:37 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Today, as voters in Tanahun, Bara, and Chitwan head to the polls for the by-elections, concerns have arisen about the integrity of the electoral process. Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) candidates have accused the ruling parties of using money, muscle, and power to sway the voters on the eve of the election, an allegation that cannot be taken lightly. The misuse of state resources can be a significant corruptive force during the elections, amplifying power imbalances and giving the candidates an unfair advantage. The abuse of state resources during elections is a pervasive but dangerous trend that erodes competition, undermines public trust in election outcomes, impedes development, infrastructure, and social welfare initiatives, and weakens the rule of law. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the Election Commission (EC) and all relevant government agencies to ensure that the by-elections are held freely, fearlessly, and impartially, ensuring that the electoral process is not unduly influenced, and that all candidates have a fair chance to compete.

Reportedly, the EC has already issued directives to make the management of the by-elections more efficient. The EC has also directed that action be taken immediately if anyone threatens or hampers the activities of employees and security personnel deputed in by-election sites. This is crucial to ensure that the election proceeds smoothly and that everyone involved in the electoral process is safe. Additionally, the EC has asked security bodies and communication service provider companies to make their services efficient and easily available during the elections. This is important to ensure that there is no disruption to the electoral process due to security or communication issues.

However, it is not enough for the EC to issue directives alone. All government bodies concerned must work together to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. This includes taking immediate action against anyone found to be involved in activities affecting the election going beyond their responsibilities. The allegations made by the RSP candidates are serious and must be thoroughly investigated. The EC should activate the mechanism it has for complaints and appeals, where any concerns or complaints related to the electoral process can be raised and addressed in a timely and effective manner. If there is any evidence of wrongdoing, action must be taken immediately to ensure that the election is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.

One of the RSP candidates has even drawn the attention of the UN over the violation of election code of conduct by the alliance of the ruling parties that have fielded a common candidate in all three constituencies. This underscores the importance of ensuring the credibility of the election not just on polling day but also before and after the vote. In this regard, the EC must work closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate any allegations of election-related malpractice. Additionally, the EC should facilitate the observers to monitor the electoral process and provide independent assessments of its fairness and transparency. This will help to increase public confidence in the electoral process and ensure that any irregularities are detected and addressed. The EC can learn from these incidents and take necessary measures to improve the shortcomings in future elections.

Although people’s representatives to the federal parliament are being elected only from three constituencies, the by-elections in Tanahun, Bara, and Chitwan are an important event in the country's democratic process. It is imperative that the election is conducted in a free, fearless, and impartial manner, and that all candidates are able to compete fairly. The EC and all government bodies concerned must work together to ensure that the integrity of the electoral process is maintained. Any allegations of malpractice must be thoroughly investigated, and action taken immediately if any wrongdoing is found. Only then can we ensure that the by-elections are a true reflection of the will of the people.

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