KATHMANDU, Dec 20: The State Affairs Committee (SAC) of the parliament has directed the government to hold by-elections in various vacant local and provincial assembly seats by mid-May 2019.
Though two provincial assembly seats and one mayoral, over a dozen ward committee chair and about 200 ward committee member positions are lying vacant for a long time, the Election Commission has said that by-elections for local unit representatives cannot be held due to a legal hurdle.
“We have sought legal clarity from the government because local election law has not envisioned by-election; it has no provision of by-election for vacant local unit positions,” said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav at the committee meeting on Wednesday.
The EC is also unclear about whether the post of ward committee chief and municipal executive committee member goes vacant if the local unit representative is elected to the District Coordination Committee (DCC). Each DCC comprises nine members elected from among ward committee chairs and ward committee members. Therefore 693 elected local unit members have been elevated to the DCCs in 77 districts.
Besides this, about 200 local unit positions are lying vacant due to death, resignation or absence of candidates. According to EC officials, 175 positions of women ward committee memberships are lying vacant because there were no candidates for these positions. According to the EC, 21 local unit positions are vacant following the death or resignation of the members or because of court orders. All positions in ward-11 of Solu-Dudhkunda Rural Municipality in Solukhumbu district remain vacant as there were no candidates for any posts due to a boundary dispute.
Though election law has provisioned one Dalit woman member in each ward, 175 wards could not find Dalit woman candidates hence the positions are lying vacant. According to Chief Election Commissioner Yadav, his office has asked the government to mull alternative ways to fill the vacant Dalit women memberships in the wards.
Responding to lawmakers concerns Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa said that the government is working to bring amendments to the law to pave the way for by-elections for the vacant local body positions.
After hearing from Minister Thapa and Chief Commissioner Yadav, SAC directed the government to hold by-elections to fill the vacant provincial and local body positions by mid-May. The SAC has also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to make arrangements to ensure voting rights to Nepali citizens domiciled abroad as per the Supreme Court verdict and submit a report to the committee about the arrangements made.