By-polls at federal, provincial and local levels unlikely before April
KATHMANDU, March 3: Parliament amended the election law on Saturday paving the way for conducting by-elections for different positions at federal, provincial and local levels.
With the lower house passing the Some Nepal Acts Amendment Bill, inclusive of minor revisions by the upper house, uncertainty over by-elections to vacant posts of mayor, deputy mayor and chair, deputy chair and ward committee chair at the local levels has been cleared.
Earlier, there were legal hurdles to conducting by-elections at the local levels. But officials at the Election Commission (EC) said the amendment still hasn't paved the way for by-elections for-ward committee members.
With the amendment, the government can fix the date for by-elections at local levels upon the suggestion of the EC. The EC had long been waiting for the amendment to proceed with by-elections to vacant posts at local and provincial bodies. With the demise of House of Representatives member from Kaski-2 Rabindra Adhikari on Wednesday, the task of holding a parliamentary by-election has been added on.
According to election law, the central government shall announce the poll date for House of Representative and local elections. However, it is the EC that shall announce by-election dates for provincial assembly seats in consultation with the government.
The spokesperson at the EC Shankar Kharel said the EC can hold the by-elections only after April as it needs at least two months for preparations.
“The Election Commission needs at least two months for preparations after the announcement of the election date. If the election date is announced immediately, the commission can conduct the polls after April,” Kharel told Republica.
Earlier, parliament's State Affairs Committee (SAC) had directed the government to hold by-elections for various vacant provincial and local seats by mid-May 2019, and see to the necessary legal arrangements . Last month, the EC had submitted to the Home Ministry details about vacant posts at provincial and local levels . According to ministry data, 941 posts are lying vacant at provincial and local units. Since the EC's last update for the government, one seat at the House of Representatives and one at provincial assembly have fallen vacant due to the death of the incumbents.
As of now, one seat at the House of Representatives, three at provincial assembly, one post of mayor and two posts of chiefs of rural municipality, and 36 posts of ward committee chiefs are lying vacant.
Provincial assembly seats are lying vacant in Dang, Bhaktapur and Baglung following the deaths of lawmakers Utter Kumar Oli, Harisaran Lamichhane and Tek Bahadur Gharti . Oli, Lamichhane and Gharti were directly elected lawmakers at the provincial assemblies of Provinces 5, 3 and Gandaki respectively.
Similarly, the posts of mayor at Dharan Sub-metropolitan City and rural municipality chief at Falgunanda Rural Municipality in Panchthar and Makalu Rural Municipalities in Sankhuwasabha are lying vacant.
According to the EC , 36 posts of ward committee chief are vacant in several districts. The vacancies occurred after ward committee chiefs became district coordination committee members or because of death and resignation.
According to the EC, 415 ward committee memberships under the open category, 211 for women and 238 for Dalit women are lying vacant. The vacancies occurred for various reasons including resignation and nomination to district coordination committees. But by-elections for these seats can't be held immediately as ambiguity persists in the election law.
“The law amended by parliament has not envisioned by-elections for ward committee members,” said EC Spokesperson Kharel.