KATHMANDU, March 14: Backtracking on its previous commitment of not asking for any foreign aid for the management of elections, the Election Commission (EC) is seeking logistical support from India, China and other countries for the upcoming local elections.
The election body is receiving 36 four-wheelers and some motorcycles from India as a token grant from the southern neighbor. Apart from vehicles, India is also providing voting screens and indelible ink, among other logistics. Similarly, the EC is receiving 11 types of logistics from the northern neighbor, China.
In the last week of February, election commissioners including Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav had committed themselves not to receive foreign aid for the upcoming elections. Based on their commitment, the government had released over Rs 10 billion for the local elections and an additional Rs 31 billion is said to be in the process of getting released for the security agencies.
EC’s proposal seeking assistance from the two immediate neighbors has already reached the Ministry of Finance (MoF). Dismayed by the proposal, MoF officials are asking why aid from the neighboring countries is needed when the government has allocated a huge budget for the upcoming elections. Finance ministry officials have reportedly opposed the EC’s request to seek logistics from neighboring countries.
In response, EC commissioners have stressed the need for clearing bureaucratic hurdles to receive aid from the neighboring countries. EC commissioners have argued that receiving grant from neighboring countries for elections is just a continuation of past tradition. “Actually, receiving aid from certain countries during elections has become a part of our tradition. And we cannot refuse when they propose to provide some major donation,” said Election Commissioner Ishwari Prasad Paudyal.
Paudyal argued that it will be easier for the EC to get logistics in time if they accept donating countries’ proposals. “We may not be able to procure logistics including vehicles in time if we follow the public procurement procedures,” he said.
However, the EC is procuring ballot boxes and other logistics through public procurement procedures. EC has awarded AIT Pvt Ltd the contract to supply 29,000 ballot boxes from China.
Nepal has been receiving logistics from neighboring countries for long. This time around, the EC has vowed to use only domestic resources for election management.
During the elections in 2013, India had donated 48 vehicles [five Scorpio cars and 43 pick-up trucks], ballot boxes and poll screens, among other things. Each regional office of the EC was provided a Scorpio while the pick-up vans were provided to the district election offices.
Similarly, China has provided neutral pens, markers, thumbtacks, clips, staplers, staples, scissors, glue sticks, calculators, ink pads, punchers and horologes and stamp pads.
EC to distribute voter ID cards
Meanwhile, the EC has said that it will distribute voter ID cards to the around 14 million voters before the May 14 local elections to ensure free and fair elections.
“We will distribute the voter ID cards before the election. Those who received temporary cards during the 2013 CA elections will also get new ones,” said EC Secretary Gopinath Mainali.
Mainali said that the EC has already awarded contracts to firms for printing the ID cards and that the printing process will begin soon. “Quality cards will be distributed to all,” he said.
Meanwhile, the EC has begun voter education training. The commission has begun a two-day Masters’ Training in Kathmandu. Those trained in the center will be deployed in the regions and districts to train officials in the districts. The EC plans to train some 21,000 volunteers for the upcoming local polls.