Kathmandu, April 6

The Constitutional Council’s recent decision to nominate former secretary Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya as the new chief election commissioner has drawn flak from civil society members. They fear that if the government’s favourites get berth in constitutional bodies that can lead to government’s high-handedness and undermining of state institutions.

Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi said the CC recommended Thapaliya the very next day he tendered his resignation from the post of secretary and that too in the absence of Leader of Opposition Sher Bahadur Deuba. “Constitutional posts are not like the post of general managers of government-owned corporations.

The CC should debate pros and cons of each candidate before nominating election commissioners and the chief election commissioner,” Tripathi said.

“But we do not know how many candidates were discussed by the CC before Thapaliya was nominated,” Tripathi said.

Former election commissioner Birendra Prasad Mishra said it was wrong on the part of the CC to nominate Thapaliya for CEC even before his resignation as secretary was accepted.

He claimed that CC’s decision to nominate Thapaliya as CEC would not benefit the EC because he would take time to come to terms with poll related issues. “The government should have recommended one of the incumbent election commissioners as CEC,” he said.

He added that if Thapaliya was confirmed by the Parliamentary Hearing Committee, the number of former bureaucrats occupying the post of EC office bearers would reach four. “EC office bearers should be chosen from different fields and majority of them should not be former bureaucrats as they tend to support the government that recommended them, thereby affecting the independence and neutrality of the EC,” he argued.

Mishra added that the government appointing its favourites at the EC was a malaise that badly afflicts the constitutional body. “Finding politically neutral person may be difficult in our country, but efforts should be made to appoint CEC and election commissioners from among relatively independent professionals like lawyers and university professors,” he added.

Mishra said political influence was apparent in the decisions of the poll panel on several occasions, one being the time when the EC handed over biometric data of the voters to the home ministry. “The EC, which was supposed to keep confidentiality of voters, handed over the data to the home ministry,” Mishra said.

He said the CEC and EC commissioners should not meet the prime minister if they wanted to act independently and autonomously.

“If we look at the past examples, we find that CEC often met the PM. The CEC should not accept any advice from the PM. If the CEC has anything to suggest to the government, s/ he can do so by communicating to the government through the chief secretary and the home secretary,” Mishra said.

Vice-chairperson of National Election Observation Committee Prof Kapil Shrestha said the EC office bearers were unable to enforce election code of conduct in the past and didn’t work independently.

“If we want the EC to work independently, the system must be changed to ensure that able candidates who have no affiliation with any political party and who are not favourites of the government or any political party are appointed as commissioners and CEC,” he argued.