KATHMANDU, August 24: Although the government has already fixed November 26 as the date for parliamentary and provincial elections, the parliament’s State Affairs Committee (SAC) has been sitting on two election bills allegedly in an attempt to allow those convicted of corruption to contest elections.
SAC has stalled the two bills for over a month allegedly under pressure from the ruling Nepali Congress.
As many as 18 lawmakers have proposed amendments to the bills related to the Election of the Members of House of Representatives and Election of the Members of Provincial Assembly demanding that corrupt leaders should be allowed to contest the elections three years after serving the sentence. Three of the lawmakers seeking amendments are members of the same committee.
Leaders from the main opposition CPN-UML and other members of the SAC have accused the committee chairman, Dil Bahadur Gharti, who is from the NC, of working in favor of the party instead of maintaining a neutral position. They have said that the committee chairman has been stalling the bill in an attempt to incorporate the amendments proposed by NC leaders.
“The committee chairman is responsible for delaying the bills. SAC chairman seems more accountable to the government than to the people,” said a committee member, Yagya Bahadur Sunuwar. He further accused Gharti of not convening the meeting of the committee although members have been demanding one.
Asked about the accusations, Gharti said that he will remain busy in family matters for the next few days and declined to speak about the bills.
Noted NC leaders including Khum Bahadur Khadka, Chiranjivi Wagle, Govinda Raj Joshi had been convicted of corruption and served jail terms.
The original bill registered by the government in parliament, has proposed barring anyone convicted of corruption, rape, human trafficking, drugs smuggling, money laundering, passport misuse and kidnapping and other cases related to moral turpitude, from ever contesting elections.
NC lawmakers have demanded that anyone who has served their jail terms should be allowed to contest elections, after a lapse of three years.
Registering the amendment to section 13 of the bill, the lawmakers have demanded removing the lifetime ban on individuals convicted of corruption case so as to allow such individuals to contest the upcoming parliamentary and provincial assembly elections. The demand of the NC lawmakers also contradicts the Local-level Election Law, which bars anyone convicted of corruption from ever contesting the elections.
But NC lawmaker Ananda Dhungana and Radheshyam Adhikari have said that they withdrew their amendment following a dispute. Most of the amendment proposals registered by NC lawmakers include removing the lifetime ban. Out of 43 amendment proposals, 15 related to the Election of the Members of House of Representatives bill are from NC lawmakers. Among the 18 lawmakers proposing amendments, Ishwari Neupane, Dhungana and Adhikari are members of the SAC.
Other NC’s lawmakers who want the ban to go include Sitaram Mahato, Padma Narayan Chaudhary, Bharat Bahadur Khadka, Puskar Acharya, Surendra Prasad Yadav, Indra Baniya, Nara Bahadur Chand, and Ranju Thapa. Likewise, Minakshi Jha, Kiran Yadav, Amrit Lal Rajbamsi, Sushila Chaudhary, Champa Devi Khadka and Binda Ale Rana also want the ban to go.
With the SAC stalling the bills, the government has already missed the Election Commission’s deadline to ready all election-related laws by mid-August.