Govt and EC at odds over rights to fix poll date

Published On: November 23, 2016 12:50 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, Nov 23: The government and the Election Commission (EC) are at odds over who should have the rights to declare the date of periodic election.

The dispute between the executive body of the state and the constitutional body reached its peak after the Ministry of Home Affairs amended the EC's proposal to allow it to declare the poll date in the bill to amend jurisdiction, duties and responsibilities of the EC.

The bill is currently under discussion at the Parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC). 

The EC has maintained that it should be allowed to declare the date as this is the normal practice not just in South Asia, but also across most of the democratic countries in the world.  The EC has argued that Nepal's case could be a 'laughing stock' if the executive reserved the rights to declare the date of election. 

EC Commissioner Ila Sharma said the government's proposal to curtail the rights of the EC to declare election date is tantamount to controlling the constitutional body by the executive. "If the intention of the government is to put the constitutional body under its control, why not give the responsibility to hold election to some other government agency?" asked Commissioner Sharma. "The right to declare election date should be given to the EC if we are to ensure guarantee of periodic election."

In the clause 3 of the bill under discussion, Home Ministry has proposed to grant the rights to the government to declare election date in consultation with the EC as per the provisions in the constitution and federal laws. 

Speaking during the SAC meeting in Singha Durbar on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi defended the proposal that reserves the right for the government to declare election date. "We even discussed about putting election date in the constitution itself. But that could not happen. The government should declare election date also because of the political situation. It is the government that faces criticisms if election could not be held on the date set by the EC," Minister Nidhi argued. 

Interestingly, election laws after the restoration of democracy in 1990 granted the EC with the rights to declare date for the parliamentary election. However, the executive body had taken the rights to declare election date after the protracted political transition that started after people's movement in 2006.

Although the government is adamant on taking over the right to declare the election date on its own, majority of lawmakers in the SAC, which is deliberating on the provisions of the election bill, are in favor of allowing the EC the rights to declare the election date. A total of 21 lawmakers representing various political parties including Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, RPP-Nepal and Nepal Workers' and Peasants Party have even registered amendment proposal, demanding that the EC be given rights to declare election date.

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