Delay in holding by-elections affects local budget

Published On: June 28, 2019 07:00 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal and Dhan Basnet

Elections for vacant posts unlikely before October

KATHMANDU/ POKHARA, June 28: A group of ward chairs affiliated to the main opposition Nepali Congress padlocked the Office of the Pokhara Metropolitan City on Thursday to protest allocation of what they called more budget to certain wards in an attempt by the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to influence the upcoming by-elections in the area.

The ward chairs also staged a sit-in at the gate of the Metropolitan City Office.

Delay on holding by-elections in the vacant local, provincial and federal parliamentary seats is likely to affect the budget endorsement process at the local level.

The government hasn't announced the date for by-election at the vacant federal parliamentary seat of Kaski-2, since the death of lawmaker of the constituency and then tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari in February. Adhikari was killed in a helicopter accident.

When the metropolitan city unveiled its annual budget on Tuesday, ward committee chairpersons elected from the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) suspected that the mayor and deputy mayor of the metropolitan city, who were elected from the ruling NCP, allocated more budget in two wards that lie under Kaski-2. “Ward no 16 and 17 of the metropolitan city, which fall under the vacant Kaski-2 constituency, have received more funds than other wards. We suspect that the budget allocation is aimed at influencing the upcoming by-election,” said Ram Saroj Lamichhane, chairperson of ward no 9.

Although the absence of elected representatives in several local and provincial and one parliamentary seat has been affecting crucial decision-making process, by-elections to fill the vacant positions are unlikely before mid-October, according to officials at the Election Commission (EC) and the government.

The government plans to hold by-elections to fill the vacant seats only after mid October, according to government spokesman Gokul Baskota.

“We don't have the practice of conducting elections during the rainy season, so by-elections could be held only after mid-October,” Spokesperson Baskota said. “The government has expedited informal discussions for holding the elections but no decision has been taken yet.”

Various factors make the election during the monsoon and winter seasons difficult in the country. Voter turnout could be low during the rainy season when most people remain busy in their farms. Similarly transporting logistics to the rural area where the road conditions are poor also becomes difficult especially during the rainy season. According to the government spokesperson Baskota by-elections in the vacant parliamentary, provincial and local positions will be held simultaneously.

EC Spokesperson Shankar Kharel said that it could take around four months for the commission to make necessary preparations for holding the elections. “The EC can hold the by-elections in mid-October only if the government announced the poll date now,” Kharel told Republica. Also various laws have to be considered for holding the elections.

“The poll date should be announced without any delay if the government wants to hold by-election in mid-October because it could take up to 120 days for the making logistical and other preparations,” Kharel added. Currently, one House of Representatives seat, three provincial assembly seats, one mayor position, two chiefs of rural municipalities, one deputy mayor, and 36 ward committee chief positions are lying vacant.

Provincial assembly seats are lying vacant in Dang, Bhaktapur and Baglung following the deaths of lawmakers Utter Kumar Oli, Harisaran Lamichhane and Tek Bahadur Gharti. Oli, Lamichhane and Gharti were elected lawmakers under first-past-the-post system at the provincial assemblies of Provinces 5, 3 and Gandaki respectively.

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