PM urges EC to brace for province, parliament polls same day

Published On: August 8, 2017 01:15 AM NPT By: Bhadra Sharma

KATHMANDU, Aug 7: With the  constitutional deadline for holding the remaining elections fast approaching, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has urged the Election Commission (EC) to begin poll preparations in such a way as to be in a position to conduct both the provincial and parliamentary elections on the same day. 

At a meeting with the election commissioners on Monday, PM Deuba came out in favor of conducting both the elections on the same day and by January 21, 2018, the constitutional deadline.  Holding both  elections  the same day will reduce election expenditures, Deuba argued. Both ruling and opposition parties want to hold the elections the same day after concluding that holding them separately may invite a constitutional crisis if both  cannot take place within the deadline. 

Informed sources say political parties want to hold both the elections by the third week of November. 

Monday's meeting is the fourth between the executive chief and the election commissioners since Nepali Congress President Deuba came to power again. The election body is urging the government to fixing the poll dates and clear the administrative and legal hurdles.  “Poll dates should be fixed within the next 10 days to conduct the elections in time, be it at one  go or separately,” said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal. 

Earlier, the election body was in favor of conducting the provincial and parliamentary elections separately. 

But the government hasn't yet promulgated the electoral laws, and the report of the Constituency Delineation Commission, which is the main document necessary for beginning poll preparations, has not been readied.  

Delay in clearing the poll hurdles and fixing the poll dates has put the election body in a fix over poll preparations.

A constitutional crisis may arise if the polls are not conducted within the constitutional deadline. 

At the Monday meeting, the election commissioners  also urged the government to be clear whether or not it wants  Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the coming elections. The EC wants the machines to be purchased by the government as it feels that  buying them on its own will invite 'unnecessary troubles'.

The EC had tried to purchase  EVMs from the UK company Smartmatic but dropped the idea following objections from some commissioners. After failing to procure the UK-manufactured EVMs, the EC had sent a team  to India to study the feasibility of using Indian machines.

After visiting two Indian firms - Bharat Electronics Limited in Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India, Hyderabad - the team  submitted a report to the EC secretariat suggesting that the Indian machines can be used in the upcoming elections.

But chances of using Indian machines are uncertain as the Indian firms have expressed their inability to manufacture the required machines within a short span of time. They have sought at least five months for the purpose. 

Given the Indian  response, the EC is now open to purchasing from the UK's Smartmatic. “The government must decide in time if it wants to use the machines because it has to sign a G2G deal or arrange a grant,” said  Dahal. 

 If things go as planned, the government has to purchase at least 21,000 control units, and each control unit needs four to seven ballot units.

The EC  first used Indian EVMs  during the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in Kathmandu constituency 1 polling. The result wasn't challenged by anyone. The Indian government had provided 1,200 EVMs to help Nepal  digitize its elections.  

In the second CA elections in 2013, the EC was unable to use  Indian EVMs as these machines could not accommodate the large number of political parties contesting. At the time, the Indian EVMs could accommodate only up to 64 parties  while altogether 122 had parties had registered with the EC for the polls.

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