Int'l community concerned over foreign observers' absence in local polls

Published On: April 29, 2017 01:00 AM NPT By: Bhadra Sharma

KATHMANDU, April 29: Key international donors and the diplomatic community have expressed their displeasure over the Election Commission (EC)'s refusal to allow international poll observing groups to monitor the May 14 local elections. 

In an interaction organized by the EC to inform the diplomatic missions and donors about the poll preparations made so far, representatives of the donor and diplomatic communities showed concern over barring international observers from participating in poll monitoring.  "They were concerned regarding the Commission's move to restrict foreign groups from observing the elections," said EC Spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma. 

Only domestic observers have been allowed to observe the elections. Foreign poll observing groups, according to election officials, were barred from election monitoring citing past precedents.  “No foreign observers were allowed to monitor previous local elections. That's why we did not feel any urgency to invite foreign poll observers. We believe domestic observers are enough for the poll observing job," said Election Commissioner Ishwari Paudel.

Nearly 50,000 local poll observers are being mobilized for poll observation. Apart from them, other rights bodies are also monitoring the elections. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has made an agreement with the EC to monitor elections from the perspective of human rights violation while the National Women's Commission is also monitoring the elections to make sure that the process is gender friendly. NHRC is said to be monitoring the election environment, participation of voters and other logistical arrangement.  

"They will monitor polls in three phases - before, during and post-election and reports will be submitted accordingly," said Spokesperson Sharma. 

Following the reservation from the international community regarding poll observation, the EC has urged Kathmandu-based diplomatic missions to observe the elections in Kathmandu. They, however, are not allowed to go outside the capital city. "EC cannot allow them to go outside Kathmandu. They can just observe the poll environment and stay here this time," said Spokesperson Sharma. 

Representatives of diplomatic missions have urged the EC to allow them to go outside Kathmandu even if foreign observing groups have not been allowed to observe the polls this time. 

EC Commissioner IIa Sharma said the election body will take a decision on allowing the diplomatic mission representatives to pay a study visit outside Kathmandu during the second phase of elections. 

At the interaction, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Ayodhee Prasad Yadav urged the diplomatic missions and development partners to help make the elections a success.  "As decided by the government, the commission will successfully hold the elections at 7,311 polling centers of the 34 districts in the first phase and in the remaining districts in the second phase," said CEC Yadav, adding, "There will be no changes in the voter roll or the voter ID cards or the ballot papers as we have already produced them in the required number." 

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