KATHMANDU, June 6: In a major shift in its stance, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to allow the representatives of the Kathmandu-based diplomatic missions including United Nations officials to observe the second phase of local elections scheduled to be held in the remaining four provinces on June 28.
Diplomatic missions and representatives of other international organizations based in Kathmandu weren't allowed to monitor the first phase of locals elections held in three of the seven provinces on May 14.
A Board meeting of the election body on Monday decided to this effect following enormous pressure from the heads of diplomatic missions. The decision was taken after the heads of the diplomatic missions publicly expressed their displeasure over the election body's ban on them to go outside Kathmandu and observe the elections.
Citing past precedents, the EC had allowed them to observe elections only in the Kathmandu Valley.
Not satisfied with the EC's move, the Kathmandu-based embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom had publicly expressed displeasure and demanded permission to observe poll activities outside Kathmandu as well. Some diplomats in Kathmandu had dismissed the EC's decision to observe the polls in Kathmandu expressing displeasure over the decision of barring them from inspecting polls in the rural areas.
“This time, they will be allowed to go outside Kathmandu and observe the polls on the election day,” Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav told Republica.
The diplomats, according to Election Commission Spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma, will be sent to the districts together with foreign ministry officials and they will have to consult local administrations in the districts for security reasons.
According to Spokesperson Sharma, the EC has fixed some areas of all four provinces where the second phase elections are taking place. The diplomats are scheduled to go to Biratnager and Dhankuta of Province 1, Janakpur and Bardibas of Province 2 and Palpa and Bhairahawa of Province 5. Similarly, they are allowed to go to Dhangadhi and Dadheldhura of Province 7.
“Interested diplomats including officials from the United Nations can go to various regions of the country and observe the polls. But they should seek consent of the foreign ministry and consult the chief district officers in the respective district for security reasons,” said CEC Yadav.
Yadav said the representatives of diplomatic missions needn't submit reports to the EC but can brief their respective countries on the poll activities.
Election experts have lauded the election body's decision. “There is nothing wrong in our polls. They [diplomats] will be really impressed with our polling process and brief their respective countries accordingly,” said former chief election commissioner Surya Prasad Shrestha, adding, “I appreciate this move.”
Former chief commissioner Shrestha hoped their presence on the ground will help to legitimize the polls internationally. Large groups of poll observers including The Carter Center and The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) had observed the Constituent Assembly elections held in 2008 and 2013 upon request from the EC. Their involvement had greatly helped the EC to persuade parties dissatisfied with the poll results.
However, this time the EC had not allowed international poll observers to monitor the elections and even the Kathmandu-based diplomatic missions were not allowed to go outside Kathmandu during the first round of elections.