KATHMANDU, May 24: Election experts have said that a series of compromises made by the Election Commission (EC) over enforcement of the election code of conduct has raised a question mark over the credibility of the constitutional election body.
The disappointment of the experts over the performance of the EC comes after it failed to hold the government accountable despite repeated cases of election code violation.
Worried by the government's recent decision to carve out additional local units in the southern plains even though the first round of local elections have already been conducted in the hill and mountain regions, and also by government preparations to introduce a budget in between the election phases, they have urged the EC to take a tough stand on code enforcement.
"Going through election-related developments it seems the code does not apply to the government. Otherwise, introducing new policies and programs and creating additional local units when the country is in the midst of elections would be considered outrageous," said former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety. He suggested to the EC to reject the government's decision to form 22 more local units in the tarai.
Balananda Poudel, former chief of the Local Level Restructuring Commission, the body responsible for fixing the number of local units, termed the government move unconstitutional and biased. "Neither the constitution nor the laws allow the government to create additional local units in between elections. If the government wants to change even the border of a local unit ward it should be done one year before elections," said Poudel.
The government said that the decision to increase the number of local units and upgrade 23 rural municipalities into municipalities was taken to bring the Madhes-baased parties on board the electionss and create a poll-friendly environment.
But opposition parties including CPN-UML and experts on elections and local governance accused the government of riding roughshod over the election code so as to influence the outcome of the elections.
"The government is doing all this just to influence voters ahead of the elections," said main opposition CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, at a press conference organized in Kathmandu.
The EC has been accused of failing to enforce the election code of conduct right from the time the poll date was announced by the government. Contrary to the past tradition of enforcing the election code immediately after the announcement of a poll date, the EC this time did not enforce the code for a whole week.
During that week the government transferred top police officers and senior bureaucrats from the Ministry of Home Affairs, people who play a crucial role during elections.
Particulars from the Home Ministry show that the government transferred 20 deputy inspectors general (DIGs) during the code gap. Apart from this, the government also transferred 35 under-secretaries posted in various districts as CDOs. The role of CDOs is crucial for holding elections.
Although the original election code approved by the EC barred ministers and others in public positions from participating in poll campaigning, the EC backtracked from this after the government leaned on it. Several public appointments were also made by the government. "The government is making political appointments whenever it wants but I have not heard EC objecting," said former CEC Uprety.