EC says existing laws need to be amended to enable Nepalis living abroad to vote


Millions of Nepalis living in foreign countries want to use their voting right, and the Supreme Court has also ordered the government to ensure out-of-country voting from the next election, but the government and major political parties are not ready for it yet.

Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Chandra Thapaliya said the polls panel had been reminding the government for the last three years to make changes in the existing laws to introduce the new system, but the government had not initiated the process of amending laws to ensure out-ofcountry voting. "We must amend our existing laws because they do not allow us to ensure out-of-country voting," he said and added that the EC had written to the government seeking its nod for the new system, but the government was yet to respond.

"We are ready to do the needful once we get the government's approval," Thapaliya added.

He said ensuring external voting could be challenging because setting up voting booths in all foreign countries where Nepalis work and study could not be feasible.

"Some argue that online voting and postal voting should be allowed to ensure Nepalis living abroad could vote in the elections, but then online voting is not fully safe and reliable," he added.

Thapaliya said a lot of issues related to out-of-country voting were yet to be resolved.

We have a different electoral system for federal/provincial and local levels.

Many people say that we could go for out-of-country voting only under the proportional election system and not under the firstpast-the-post system," Thapaliya added.

Coordinator of Bibeksheel Sajha Party Milan Pandey said that almost seven million Nepalis were working or studying in foreign countries and they had to be given an opportunity to use their franchise from their respective places. "Major political parties – the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre are reluctant to introduce out-ofcountry voting because they are afraid of the decisions that the seven million youths living abroad could make during elections,"

Pandey said and added that the argument that online voting could be misused was not right. "No system is perfect.

Manipulations take place even during physical voting so we should be concerned only about how to minimise the risk of manipulation.

We can discuss these issues and also learn from the practices of other countries," he argued.

Professor Kapil Shrestha said non-governmental organisations involved in the electoral process must do their part to investigate the feasibility of out-of-country voting and build opinion in favour of the system. "Allowing millions of Nepalis working abroad to use their voting rights is a good idea but our political parties are not willing to do that because in practice they are statusquoists and even regressive in some aspects," he added.

According to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, external voting is allowed by 115 countries and territories in the world.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 5, 2021 of The Himalayan Times.