Holding provincial and central polls same day will save 6 billion: Experts

Published On: July 29, 2017 05:17 AM NPT By: Bhadra Sharma

KATHMANDU, July 29: Election experts have said that at least five to six billion rupees in election expanses could be saved if both the provincial assembly and parliamentary elections are conduct on the same day. 

A day after Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba proposed to the election commissioners to conduct both the elections at a single go, former election experts seconded the idea, saying this will significantly reduce election costs. They also argued that the idea will help  ensure that both the elections are in fact held. Stakeholders have been worried about two crucial elections being conducted within such a short span of time. 

"If both the [provincial assembly and parliamentary] elections are conducted on the same day it will save at least five to six billion. This does not include expenditures on security forces, logistics  and the expenses for political parties," said former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety. 

Uprety further said that holding both sets of elections  the same day is the only feasible solution as the constitutional deadline  for concluding all the elections is fast approaching. The constitution has fixed January 21, 2018 as the cut-off date for holding the remaining elections. "Personally, I see this as the best option," said Uprety.

Uprety suggested  two separate ballot papers--one for provincial assembly elections and another for  parliament elections--and the counting of  votes for  proportional representation  based on  the votes secured by various  party candidates. 

Frequent deployment of civil servants and security personnel on the ground, printing of ballot papers, conducting voter education repeatedly and additional salary and allowances for those deployed on election duty will run up the election costs by billions, it is pointed out.  

Another former election commissioner, Dolakh Bahadur Gurung, said holding both the elections on the same day is no big deal. "It is possible. But the parties need to amend the laws related to provincial assembly and parliamentary elections," he said. 

Echoing Uprety, Gurung also said billions in election expenses can be saved by holding both the elections together. "By  election expenditures we should not just understand the expanses incurred by the election commission. Expenditures on the security forces and political parties are also huge," said Gurung. 

Although the local units elections in Province 2 are yet to be conducted the EC has already spent Rs  6.30 billion. Altogether Rs 9 billion  was allocated for the security forces but they required additional funds as the polls originally set for May 14 were conducted in three phases following frequent deferrals. 

The EC needs to deploy thousands of civil servants and security personnel to arrange the elections. Frequent mobilization of security personnel and civil servants costs billions. 

In recent years, election costs have increased dramatically. According sources familiar with elections, non-cooperation with the election body and obstacles in election-related work including the vote-counting process at various local units have contributed to the balooning expenditures.

The EC had spent Rs 110 million (in 1991 rupees) for holding the parliamentary elections of 1991, according to 'Election Cost in Nepal', a book written by  Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav. Likewise, the legislative election in 1994 cost the EC Rs 240 million. A similar election was held in 1999 at a total cost of Rs 360.6 million.

The cost increased drastically in the first Constitution Assembly (CA) election of 2008. The election body spent Rs 2.9 billion. 

Likewise, Rs 4.26 billion was spent for the second CA election of 2013, excluding security costs, according to former EC officials.

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