KATHMANDU, Oct 27:While the Supreme Court (SC) has sought details of progress in printing separate ballot papers for parliamentary and provincial assembly elections, the Election Commission (EC) has started printing the ballots as designed earlier, with both the ballots on a single sheet of paper.
EC officials said they have had no formal communication from the court administration about printing separate ballot papers, and the printing of the remaining ballot papers designed for the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system was also proceeding ahead as per the election calendar.
The EC has been printing two separate ballot papers as per the existing arrangements. On one ballot paper the FPTP ballot for parliament is designed on the top of the sheet while the FPTP ballot for provincial assemblies is printed at the bottom of the same sheet of paper.
Similarly, under the Proportional Representation (PR) category, the ballot for parliamentary polls is printed on the top while the ballot for provincial assemlies is printed at the bottom on the same sheet.
According to the Election Commission, the printing of the ballot papers was started as per its calendar. On Friday morning, all the election commissioners reached the Bhaktapur-based Janak Shikshya Samagri Kendra Ltd (JSSK), the state-run printing house responsible for printing ballot papers. They instructed the print operators to start printing the ballot papers designed for the FPTP system.
JSSK has already printed 17.4 million ballot papers for the PR category. It plans to complete printing the FPTP ballot papers for 32 districts, where the first round of parliamentary and provincial assembly elections are taking place, within 10-12 days. The press will then start printing the ballot papers for the remaining districts under FPTP.
Dissatisfied over the ballot designs, Rastriya Janata Party Nepal leader Sarbendra Nath Shukla had moved the apex court, seeking separate ballot papers for the two elections. The court, however, refused to stay the ongoing printing of ballots under PR, saying the process was already well underway. But it asked stakeholders to proceed in accordance with the law while printing the remaining ballots. The writ petitioner then filed a contempt of court case against the election body. Responding to the contempt case, the court on Wednesday sought a progress report on the printing of separate ballot papers.
But the election body started printing ballot papers for FPTP as well as per the earlier design. Election officers said a ballot paper includes two ballots, one for parliamentary and another for provincial assembly elections. “We were awaiting a communication from the court. But we haven't received any although some media reported about its decision on separate ballot papers,” said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal, adding, "Given the context, we have no alternative but to move ahead as per our previous plan.”
Commissioner Dahal ruled out any possibility of revising the poll calendar. “We are on the right track and cannot now deviate from it,” he said.
The EC is arguing that the polls may not be conducted on the scheduled date if it is forced to print separate ballot papers for parliamentary and provincial assembly elections, as arranging additional logistics would take time. Two ballots were incorporated into a single sheet of paper following an understanding among major political parties. But the RJPN leader had moved the court creating uncertainty over the possibility of polls on schedule.
With the polls fast approaching, the election body has reiterated its commitment to conducting them within the scheduled date. Poll officers have already been mobilized and their offices established on the ground. The Ministry of Home Affairs has begun preparations for poll security and other essential poll preparations are also underway.