Dahal proposes defering second round polls to accomodate new units
KATHMANDU, May 25: Two days after the government created 22 additional local units in the southern plains, the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday refused to accommodate the new local units in the second round elections slated for June 14.
In a meeting today with outgoing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other political leaders, the election commissioners said they cannot reset the elections in the local units that are in the last stages of poll preparations. Election commissioners including Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav had reached the outgoing PM's residence to express their inability to accommodate recently created local units in the second round local elections scheduled for June 14.
At the meeting attended by Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is seen as the next prime minister, Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi and other ruling coalition leaders, Dahal urged the poll commissioners "to think about other options including deferral of the poll date for a few days to accommodate the new local units in second phase polls".
"He proposed various options including deferral of the June 14 elections. But we left the meeting after listening to his proposal as we do not have the authority to fix such dates or change them," said one election commissioner who sought anonymity stating that the commissioners had reached an understanding not to comment to the press.
The election commissioners, however, expressed their inability to hold elections in the recently created 22 local units. They argued that increasing the number of local units in between elections would be against the election code of conduct and holding elections in these new units was not logistically possible.
"We cannot hold local elections in the newly created local units. There are multiple reasons for our refusal. We are holding local elections in 461 units as scheduled," said Chief Election Commissioner Yadav.
Asked whether the EC could compromise if political pressure was brought to bear, Election Commissioner Ishwari Paudyal said they will not budge from their stance. "No compromise," said Paudyal.
At the meeting, PM Dahal and senior ruling coalition leaders said they floated the poll deferral option to bring the agitating forces on board the election process. But election commissioners said they would not compromise election standards and would go ahead with the second round elections as scheduled.
"The EC has neither received the names of the new local units nor are there any maps available. And how can we manage elections for those units with just a few days till poll date?" said Commissioner Paudel.
As part of its preparations for the second round polls, the EC has already printed the ballot papers, voter ID cards and voter rolls and also deployed poll officers on the ground. It will have to re-do all this if the new local units are to be accommodated.
Election experts point out that the decision to increase the number of local units in between two election phases is a violation of the constitution and the election code of conduct.
Only the constitutional body formed for constituency delineations can suggest the number of local units or constituencies. In spite of this the government has created the additional 22 local units and also upgraded 23 rural municipalities into municipalities, purportedly to create an election-friendly environment.
Madhes-based parties have been demanding revision of the federal provinces and greater political rights for Madhes. The constitution amendment bill tabled by the government is stuck in parliament for lack of a two-thirds majority.
The outgoing Dahal government has increased the number of local units in the tarai to woo the agitating parties into polls participation.