EC summons EU mission chief over poll observation code violation

Published On: November 24, 2017 06:15 AM NPT By: BHADRA SHARMA and DIL BAHADUR CHHATYAL

KATHMANDU, Nov 24: The Election Commission (EC) has summoned Željana Zovko, chief of the European Union Observation Mission to Nepal, after a local election office recommended action against the mission's observers deployed in the far-western region of the country on charge of breaching the poll observation code. 

An informal meeting of the election commissioners on Thursday decided to summon the mission head in Kathmandu before deciding the nature of action. Rajendra Kumar Acharya, chief returning officer of Kanchanpur, on Wednesday had recommended to the EC headquarters to prohibit a European team from monitoring the election activities in Kanchanpur. EU observers have been accused of entering a court and unnecessarily inquiring court officials.  

“The local election office has recommended action against EU election observers. So, we want to hear from the mission chief before deciding the nature of action,” said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal. 

Election Commissioner Dahal said although the EC is set to take action against the EU observers, the nature of the action is yet to be decided. Sources privy to the election body said the commissioners are discussing whether to expel the observers found breaching the election observation code or seek clarification from the mission head or even take a tougher action. “They must be punished after breaching the election code but the commission is yet to decide the nature of action,” said a senior election officer. 

The three-member monitoring team representing the European Union had arrived at the district about a week ago. The team consists of Larj Goran, Eva Suhonnar and a Nepali multi-lingual Puskar Pandey. “The European team has violated the elections code of conduct and also unnecessarily interfered in the court,” said Acharya. “This is why I have sent the letter to the EC seeking a ban on the team from monitoring the election-related activities in the district,” he confirmed.

Acharya said the European team went to the court, which is beyond the team's mandate. “The monitoring teams only have the right to monitor the election-related activities. However, they went beyond their right to monitor the court, that too without the permission of the judge. Therefore, the EC must take action against the EU observers to maintain the dignity of court,” he said.

Stating that only the Supreme Court and High Court have the right to monitor lower courts, the Chief Returning Officer has sought to ban the team from monitoring all three constituencies of the district. He further added that the action against them would make the international community take notice of the team's wrongdoing.

“I could have just alerted them. However, that would not be enough. This is why I recommended action against them so that it would be setting an example,” said Acharya. However, the EC is yet to receive the letter, he further added. 

If an international monitoring team violates the election codes of conduct, the EC has the right to warn the team, prohibit them from monitoring and even expel them from the country. 

Contrary to the past practices, the EC has taken tough stances against international poll observing groups in recent times. The EC, which did not allow the international poll observing groups in the last local elections, had not allowed even the Kathmandu-based international missions to go out of Kathmandu during the first phase of local elections. The election body, however, had allowed them to go outside Kathmandu together with foreign ministry officials. 
Fewer international election-observing groups have been allowed to observe the upcoming parliamentary and provincial elections than in the past. So far, observers of the Carter Center, EUEOM and Asian Network for Free Elections are deployed in the districts.

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