KATHMANDU, April 26: The Election Commission has decided to begin counting the votes cast in the first phase of the local level elections scheduled for May 14 immediately after the conclusion of the voting process.
Some argue that vote counting ahead of the second phase of elections could affect election results.
Commissioners were also at odd over whether to begin vote counting soon after the voting is over or wait until the second phase of elections to conclude. They, however, later agreed on starting counting the votes shortly after the voting completes and announce the results, saying that it will be too risky to provide security to the ballot papers for long.
"Vote counting will begin immediately after the first phase of elections is conducted. Once the poll results are made public, we can shift our priorities to another job, i.e. the second round of elections," said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav.
Backtracking on its previous preparations of conducting local elections across the country in one go, the election body is now working to conduct the elections in two phases. The first phase of elections, according to the revised election programs, will be conducted in 293 local units of 34 districts. The first phase of elections is taking place in local units of Province 3, 4 and 6 while the second phase is taking place in Province 1, 2, 5 and 7 on June 14.
The EC has set June 14 as the date for the second phase of elections. Some commissioners including Ila Sharma have argued that announcing the election results ahead of the second phase of elections could influence the elections. "While we have barred poll surveys and exit polls since they influence election result, announcing results before the second phase of elections will definitely affect the elections," said a commissioner seeking anonymity.
Former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety is also against announcing the election results immediately after vote counting process is over. "Election results may influence the second phase of elections. But it will be wise to start counting the votes soon after the voting concludes since safeguarding ballot papers for a month will be a big challenge," said Uprety.
The EC was dragged into controversy in 2013's second Constituent Assembly elections after the then UCPN (Maoist) accused the election body of exchanging ballot boxes in collusion with the Nepal Army, the security agency authorized to transport the ballot papers. The accusations of poll rigging were never established but it had invited serious tension among major political parties.
Commissioners are also at odd over whether to allow the government to introduce budget between the elections. CEC Yadav is for introducing the budget while other commissioners are against the idea of allowing the government to present the budget ahead of the phase II elections.
The constitution has set Jeth 15 (May 29) as the Budget Day while the second phase of local elections is scheduled for June 14. The EC has urged the parties to amend the constitution so that the budget day could be deferred.
Even as the election code of conduct is silent on whether to let the government to introduce the budget just ahead of elections, the commissioners believe a budget introduced prior to the elections could influence the elections. "If the parties fail to amend the constitution and budget has to be introduced before the elections, it should not be a populist budget. The government should not introduce any programs without our prior consent," said Election Commissioner Ila Sharma.