House panel endorses two poll related bills

  • SAC proposes that govt, not EC, should have the authority to announce poll dates

Kathmandu, January 23

The State Affairs Committee of the Parliament today endorsed two poll related bills - bill relating to powers and functions of the Election Commission and the one on voter list.

The SAC, however, did not change the provision of the bill that states that the government will announce poll dates in consultation with the EC. The election body, however, has been saying that it should have the authority to announce poll dates in order to ensure that periodic elections are held on time.

Election Commissioner Ila Sharma told THT that the EC was the body to conduct and supervise polls, implying that it should have inherent power to announce poll dates to ensure periodic polls were held on time. “We still hope that lawmakers will give powers to the EC when the bill is put to vote in the House,” Sharma added.

The EC has another reason to be unhappy with the parliamentary panel. The panel endorsed the bill’s provision that states the EC will communicate with the government through the Ministry of Home Affairs.  The EC had wanted to communicate through the Prime Minister’s Office.

Section 46 of the bill related to powers and functions of the EC has this provision that the House panel didn’t change.

The committee endorsed the two bills that were finalised by Nepali Congress lawmaker Ananda Prasad Dhungana-led sub-committee after a month long discussion. However, some members of the committee, including CPN-UML lawmaker Yagya Raj Sunuwar had advised the panel in today’s meeting that the authority to announce poll dates should be given to the EC to ensure free and fair elections.

Talking to The Himalayan Times, Bhoj Raj Pokharel, former chief election commissioner, said the election dates should be stated in the constitution, and the relevant laws, to prevent political parties from playing politics over poll dates.

He, however, said the EC should not have the authority to announce poll dates.

Pokharel also argued that if poll dates were stated in the relevant laws, EC could make preparations accordingly without having to wait for the government to announce poll dates. “Even political parties will have enough time to select right candidates and groom them for the next elections. Voters too will have enough time to think who can be their best candidates,” he said.

The panel forwarded two more poll related bills — bill relating to local elections and the one on election offences and punishment — to the Dhungana-led sub-committee after it held debate on the bills’ provisions. The panel has authorised the sub-committee to submit a report on both bills within five days.

Addressing the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi  said the government was eager to announce date for civic polls soon, as at least 120 days had to be provided to the EC for making preparations. He urged the panel to pass the two bills as soon as possible.

SAC is under pressure to finish its task within five days, as the prime minister yesterday publicly spoke about announcing the local polls within six days. The SAC is still debating the bill relating to political parties. One of the crucial issues in the bill that the lawmakers are debating is whether or not there should be a threshold of votes for political parties that contest elections under proportional election system.