April 25, 2017 05:00 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, April 25: In a bid to accommodate parties under the Federal Alliance in the upcoming local elections, the Election Commission (EC) has revised its scheduled programs for the first phase of the elections and unveiled new programs for the second phase scheduled for June 14.
The first phase of the local polls is taking place on May 14 as announced by the government. Revising its previous programs, a board meeting of the election body has fixed May 2 as the date for candidacy registration for the first phase of the elections and May 5 as the date for distributing election symbols to political parties and independent candidates contesting the elections.
The EC was forced to revise its scheduled program without affecting he polls set for May 14 after the government decided to conduct the elections in two phases in a bid to bring the agitating Madhes-based parties on board the election process.
Before making public its decision to conduct the elections in phases, election commissioners had jointly discussed with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and leaders of the Madhes-based parties.
At the meeting, both PM Dahal and leaders of Madhes-based parties urged the EC to extend the deadline for registering candidacy. They also urged the EC to recognize Rastriya Janata Party, the party which was formed bringing six Madhes-based parties together, as a new political party and give an election symbol.
The EC, however, refused to give a common symbol to the party. The EC suggested the parties to come up with consensus among political parties and revise electoral laws concerning political parties.
"We cannot arrange new ballot papers, voter roll and voter for second phase of election. If a common election symbol is to be granted to the new party, they should clear legal hurdles by forging consensus among them," said EC Spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma.
The election body has also unveiled election programs for the second phase of local elections. As per the election programs unveiled on Monday, June 2 has been set as the date for candidacy registration and May 5 as election symbol distribution day.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)Yadav assured all voters that the elections will happen in two phases and asked everyone to assist in holding the historic polls, which are taking place after a gap of 19 years.
Stating that holding the elections in phases is a bit challenging because all preparations were at the final stage to hold elections in one go, Yadav said the commission will not backtrack on its decision.
"Elections will take place and we are fully committed to that," he said.
The CEC said the polls will be conducted in a free, fair and credible manner. "The Commission has already permitted 47,666 poll observers of 41 observing groups to monitor the elections. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been asked to collect details of other Kathmandu-based diplomatic missions interested in observing the elections," said Yadav.
EC advises against bringing budget before phase II
The EC has suggested to the government not to present the budget before the second phase of local elections, concluding that it could influence the elections. Ruling and main opposition parties are at odd over whether to bring the annual budget before the second phase elections after the government decided to conduct the elections in two phases.
"It will be better to defer the budget day by amending the constitution. If an amendment to the constitution is not possible, the government should not introduce any populist policy and program aimed at influencing the elections," said Election Commissioner Ila Sharma, adding, "If the government fails to amend the constitution, it should take consent from the EC while bringing any such program."
The constitution has fixed Jeth 15 (May 29) as the Budget Day while the second phase of local elections is scheduled for June 14. "Vote counting will start once the first phase of voting is over," said Commissioner Narendra Dahal.
The opposition parties including the main opposition CPN-UML fear that the government could influence the elections by introducing populist budgetary programs ahead of the second phase of elections. The ruling coalition, however, is for bringing the budget within the constitutionally set deadline.