EC rejects PM's request to increase local units

Published On: May 22, 2017 05:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The election body has also refused to give umbrella as the election symbol to the newly-formed Rastriya Janata Party Nepal as demanded by its leaders.
KATHMANDU, May 22: The Election Commission (EC) has turned down Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's request to increase the number of local units in tarai districts before second round of local elections.
Arguing that the election body is already behind the schedule in conducting the elections, election commissioners said that 'elections on June 14 will not be impossible' if the number of local units is increased in the southern plains. In a meeting with the commissioners, Prime Minister Dahal had sought the election body's consent regarding the government preparations to increase the number of local units. Dahal was in favor of increasing the number of local units arguing that the move will be helpful in bringing the Madhes-based parties on board the election process. 

At the meeting, Dahal urged the commisisoners to consider the issue. The prime minister hoped that once the number of local units are increased, this will create election environment in the districts.
Madhes-based parties have been demanding that the number of local units should be increased based on population strength while election experts have been objecting the idea arguing that it will be against the principle of free, fair and credible elections. 

The commissioners, who had reached the prime minister's official residence to brief him about the sucessful first round of local elections and preparations made for the second round, refused to give their nod to Dahal's request saying it will complicate the election furhters. 

"As you know we are already facing time constraint. So, increasing the number of local units at the eleventh hour is not a manageable task," election commissioner Ishwari Poudel told Republica. 

They said it will be difficult to re-print ballot papers, voter IDs and voter roll for the local units in the tarai districts and hold the elections on the set date. The government has set June 14 for holding the second round of local elections in 461 local units of 41 districts. 

The EC has already printed ballot papers, voter ID cards and voter roll for tarai districts where the government has decided to conduct the elections in second round, as per the government's earlier plan to conduct the elections across the country in a single go. The election materials, however, are stored in district offices of the commission. 

Poll officers are already on the ground. 

The election body has also refused to give umbrella as the election symbol to the newly-formed Rastriya Janata Party Nepal as demanded by its leaders. But the commission will allow the party to choose from among six election symbols that were allocated to the RJPN's constituent parties before their unification. 

"We cannot give them a new election symbol. What EC can do ahead of the elections is that they contest election with any election symbol among the six symbols assigned to the parties before their unification," said election commissioner Narendra Dahal.

Six tarai-centric parties were united to form a united force, RJPN, in the hope of having a greater stake in the upcoming elections. The new party was formed by merging the Tarai Madhes Democratic Party, Sadbhavana Party, National Madhes Socialist Party, Madhesi People's Rights Forum-Republican, Tarai Madhes Sadbhavana Party and Federal Sadbhavana Party.  

Previously, the EC had given oxen as election symbol to TMDP, arrow to Sadbhavana Party, bicycle to the National Madhes Socialist Party, farmer to Tarai Madhes Sadhbawanai Party, train to the Madhesi People's Rights Forum-Republican and hand to the Federal Sadbhawana Party. "They can contest elections taking any one of the previously provided election symbols," said commissioner Dahal.

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