August 2, 2019 06:00 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Aug 2: The major political parties have suggested to the Election Commission to hold by-elections in the third week of November to fill elected positions that have fallen vacant.
At a meeting with election commissioners held on Thursday, party leaders said any day in the third week of November would be fine for holding by-elections. The suggestion was made keeping in mind past election practices and weather patterns.
“The parties have suggested to us to choose any day in the third week of November for by-elections. They want the by-polls of all levels to be held at one go,” Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya told Republica.
Thapaliya said his team will soon brief Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli about a poll date and an official announcement will be made. As per existing electoral law, the government announces poll dates for federal and provincial governments in consultation with the EC whereas it can announce polls for local units on its own.
Leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, the main opposition Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal among others were present at the meeting.
The parties have suggested to the EC to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ensure strict enforcement of the election code of conduct in the upcoming elections.
The election commissioners agreed to enforce the code strictly but declined to use EVMs this time. They said it takes time to procure the machines and teach voters how to use them.
As part of its preparations for conducting by-elections to 50 vacant positions at the local, provincial and federal levels of government, the EC has urged eligible voters to register with local election offices at the earliest.
Unregistered voters are not allowed to cast their ballots and the political parties and the election authorities are being asked to encourage such voters to register at the nearest election office before the polls are announced.
Under the law, the election offices must stop registering new voters once an election date is announced.
Since the elections in 2017, over four dozen positions at local, provincial and federal levels have fallen vacant. Some of the elected representatives have died. As per information provided by the EC, one parliamentary seat and three in the provincial assemblies are currently lying vacant, apart from vacant positions at the local government level.
A parliamentary seat fell vacant after then tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari was killed in a helicopter accident in Taplejung in February. He was elected from Kaski-2.
Provincial assembly seats have been lying vacant in Dang, Bhaktapur and Baglung following the deaths of lawmakers Utter Kumar Oli, Harisaran Lamichhane and Tek Bahadur Gharti. All three were elected under the first-past-the-post.
Several positions in the municipalities and rural municipalities are also vacant.