EC proposes 1.5 pc threshold for PR system

Published On: August 10, 2016 01:40 AM NPT By: Sangeet Sangroula  | @SangeetJourno

-- Also wants to bar candidates from contesting more than one constituency under FPTP 

-- Chief election commissioner urges political parties to endorse electoral laws
KATHMANDU, Aug 10: The Election Commission (EC) has proposed a minimum 1.5 percent threshold for political parties to win seats under the proportional representation (PR) system in the upcoming elections.

A new parliamentary elections bill drafted by the EC in line with the new Constitution has proposed that a political party must secure 1.5 percent of the total valid vote cast under the PR system in order to win seats in the House of Representatives.

Although the EC proposed a threshold provision under the PR system before this also, the political parties have been reluctant to agree. 

Election Commissioner Ila Sharma said, “More than 200 political parties are registered at the EC and the number is simply unmanageable.
"So, the EC has decided to propose a threshold provision under PR for the upcoming parliamentary elections,”

She said a threshold provision was mandatory for avoiding political instability and for consolidating democracy.

The EC held an interaction program in the capital on Tuesday to discuss various provisions mooted for the new election bill. During the interaction, the political parties were divided over the threshold provision. While the big parties were for a threshold, smaller parties were of the opinion that a threshold provision would bar them from participating in Parliament. 

Min Bishwokarma of Nepali Congress said that the EC should increase the threshold provision from 1.5 percent to 5 percent, as this alone could ensure political stability.

“There is no need to protest against the threshold provision as the bill has proposed a minimum threshold of 1.5 percent only,"  he said after representatives of small political parties present at the interaction accused the EC of trying to eliminate them through the imposition of a threshold.

"There should be a threshold provision for being elected under PR, or we will continued to be wracked by political instability," Bishwsokarma added.

Likewise, Raghuji Pant of CPN (UML) said that there should be a threshold provision for elections under the PR system. “Political parties should secure a certain percentage of the vote to win any seat in an election,” he added.
However, Gopal Dahit of Tharuhat Terai Party-Nepal said that there should not be any kind of threshold as such a provision bars the small parties from being elected to Parliament. “The threshold provision will only encourage a monopoly of the big parties and eliminate smaller parties from Parliament,” he said. 

However, former chief election commissioner Nilakantha Upreti said the threshold provision is universal practice in multi-party democracies and it will help to strengthen the political parties.

He said there should be a threshold of at least three percent under PR system, given the large number of political parties in Nepal.

“Smaller political parties should try to merge instead of complaining about thresholds,” he added.

He said there would have been representation of only seven political parties in the present Parliament had the EC imposed a threshold provision during the last election. Parliament now has representation of 30 political parties, including 12 parties with only one seat each won under the PR system.

The EC has also proposed barring political leaders from contesting more than one electoral constituency in the upcoming parliamentary election.  

A new parliamentary elections bill drafted by the EC proposes that any candidate contesting under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system can contest only one electoral constituency. 

Until now, political leaders have been enjoying the privilege of contesting more than one constituency under FPTP system as this would give them a chance to win from one constituency even if they lose from the other. Allowing a candidate to contest more than one constituency also placed an added financial burden on the EC as it has to hold a by-election if the candidate wins from both the constituencies.

'Endorse election-related bills at the earliest'

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav has drawn the concern of political parties towards endorsing all the election-related bills through Parliament at the earliest.

"We have the constitutional obligation of holding elections for all three levels in the new federal setup by February, 2018," he said adding,"We cannot hold the elections on time if the necessary election laws are not endorsed by Parliament on time." 

He said the EC has already forwarded six election related bills to the government but none of these have been forwarded onwards.  He appealed to the government and political parties to amend the Local Bodies Election Procedures Act 1992 by the next one month.

Yadav also urged political parties to assist the local restructuring commission that has been formed to decide the names and boundaries of local bodies in line with the new Constitution. "If the government wants to hold the local body elections by mid-December, the commission must submit its report by mid-September and the government should implement the report by mid-October," he said. Otherwise, the EC would not be able to hold the elections on time, he added. 

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