Independent body needed to monitor election finance, code of conduct, say experts

Political parties often submit false reports of their poll expenses

Kathmandu, November 3

Election experts have said the government must amend electoral laws to control election expenses, prevent elections from being influenced by money and power and reduce the percentage of invalid votes.

Executive Director of Nepal Law Society Krishna Man Pradhan said although electoral laws had set the expenditure limit for parties and candidates, in practice, they spent way above the limit. “Election finance law and election code of conduct should be monitored by a separate independent body and not the Election Commission,” he said, adding that in the last elections, the EC appeared to be shying away from decisions that could antagonise political parties. “The EC commissioners are picked by the parties, so the appointment process also needs to change,” Pradhan argued.

He said the law must also change so that only deserving politicians win the parties’ candidacies and not those who buy the parties’ favour by donating huge amounts. “The first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems give an edge to rich people as they can get nominated with donations.

Former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety said switching from mixed electoral system to fully proportional system would help get rid of anomalies. “In a fully proportional system, voters choose political parties, not individual candidates so there won’t be a mad rush among candidates to spend on votes,” he said, adding that a fully proportional system will also make things easy for the EC.

“We have seen a huge number of votes declared invalid. The fully proportional system will facilitate voters as they will be putting their stamps on only the column of their choice,” he said.

Uprety said a fully proportional system could be implemented only through constitution amendment.

“But I do not think the major parties will change the electoral system easily because the FPTP system gives them the chance to select favoured candidates,” he argued.

He said the government must start preparations for use of electronic voting machines from the next elections if it wants to reform the electoral system.

Uprety also said the EC should run voters’ education programme from its offices across the country throughout the year and not only during elections. “If the EC can do this, it can save huge amounts of money,” he added.

Election Commissioner Ila Sharma said, “The existing campaign finance law is difficult to implement because parties often falsely report their election expenditure.” She said the EC would initiate efforts to reform electoral laws if the government provided necessary resources.

The Election Observation Committee had said in its poll observation report issued on March 30 that the legal provision that gave permission to parties to receive donation for election through the bank was limited to paper only.