ANANTA RAJ LUITEL/ SANTOSH P POKHAREL
KATHMANDU: Acting Chief Election Commissioner Neelkantha Uprety today suggested to cut the strength of the 601-member Constituent Assembly as prescribed by the Interim Constitution ‘to respect the popular will’.
“I think it would be better to reduce the strength and the tenure of the constitution making body because of several factors. Although constitution cannot be related to the cost, we should be aware of the expenditure incurred by the state treasury,” Uprety told The Himalayan Times in an interview.
According to him, since the CA was meant for two years originally and its tenure was extended for additional two years through amendments to the Interim Constitution, it may not be acceptable for the public to reelect the same body for the same period. “Since the political parties have already reached a consensus to have 311-member legislature in the new Constitution, it may be suitable to elect new CA with a similar strength,” he said. He hastened to add that it was up to the political parties to come up with a suitable decision.
CEC estimates the election will cost the state exchequer Rs 7 to 8 billion more than the last CA poll.
Uprety, however, ruled out holding CA election in late November due to adverse weather and the country’s geography. “Considering geographical and climatic situation, holding election is practical only during September-October and March-April. Some parts of the country witness heavy snowfall even in early November,” he said.
He added that apart from geo-climatic concerns and uneducated voters, parties have to address new challenges — ethnic and federal issues — before long to set the stage for free, fair and fearless elections.
In addition, he claimed that there was no certainty to hold elections without suitable amendments to the Interim Constitution and election laws. “We need at least 120 days after all legal hurdles are cleared through amendments to conduct polls on due date.”
According to Uprety, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has considered EC’s demands positively and the latter was awaiting government’s response. “We hope that the government will find a way out to carry out necessary amendments,” he added.
Acting CEC said the voters did not seem enthusiastic even after the announcement of the polls. “As many as 11.5 millions voters should cast the ballot but we are yet to collect voters’ lists of more than a million persons for the coming election.”