KATHMANDU, Aug 31: Following public criticism, lawmakers pushing an amendment to the election law that would allow those convicted of corruption to contest elections have agreed to drop their amendment demand.
Election of Members of House of Representatives bill had stalled in the State Affairs Committee (SAC) of parliament for over a month after 18 lawmakers from the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) demanded inclusion of the controversial provision. Following the NC leadership's pressure on parliamentary panel head Dil Bahadur Gharti, who is from the same party, he did not convene the committee meeting for weeks.
With the NC lawmakers now agreeing to drop their controversial amendment proposal, the SAC meeting has been convened for Friday.
“We plan to pass the bill through the committee on Friday, but it depends on how the deliberation goes at the meeting,” said Gharti.
NC Chief Whip Chinkaji Shrestha claimed that the amendment was not registered on the party's instructions and the NC would not take a position over it even though it contradicts existing laws. “Lawmakers will have the freedom whether or not to drop their amendment. But allowing the corruption-convicted to contest elections is not NC's demand or position,” he told Republica.
NC lawmaker Padma Narayan Chaudhary, who is among those seeking the controversial provision, said that they have decided not to stall election related bills any further over questions of amendments. “We are ready to help the government expedite election related bills. But we want to hear the government's justification of the provision in the original bill,” said Chaudhary.
The government has announced parliamentary and provincial polls in tandem for November 26 and December 7. But the election laws are yet to be endorsed from parliament because of amendment disputes.
The House of Representatives Election bill has proposed a three percent threshold, which is opposed by the fringe political parties.
Committee Chairman Ghartis also said that disputes on various provisions in the bill had led to delay in its endorsement. SAC is expected to table the bill for endorsement by the full House meeitng scheduled for September 4.
As many as 18 lawmakers have proposed amendments to the bill, demanding that even the corruption-convicted should be allowed to contest elections three years after serving their jail sentences. Three of the lawmakers seeking amendments are members of SAC. NC Deputy Chief Whip Ishwari Neupane and lawmakers Ananda Dhungana and Radheshyam Adhikari are members of SAC, which is entrusted with reviewing the amendment proposals.
Other NC lawmakers who want the ban to go include Sitaram Mahato, Padma Narayan Chaudhary, Bharat Bahadur Khadka, Puskar Acharya, Surendra Prasad Yadav, Indra Baniya, Nara Bahadur Chand, and Ranju Thapa. Likewise, Minakshi Jha, Kiran Yadav, Amrit Lal Rajbamsi, Sushila Chaudhary, Champa Devi Khadka and Binda Ale Rana.
The original bill registered by the government has proposed barring anyone convicted of corruption, rape, human trafficking, drugs smuggling, money laundering, passport misuse or kidnapping or in cases related to moral turpitude, from ever contesting elections again.