‘Public funding of parties necessary to check poll anomalies’

Kathmandu, November 7

The government’s decision to drop the Election Commission’s recommendation on public funding of political parties has upset stakeholders.

An election related bill which the government recently registered at the Parliament removed the EC’s recommendation to provide public fund to the political parties that secure over 1.5 per cent votes.

Election Commissioner Ila Sharma said this provision was necessary   to control financial anomalies during elections. She said elections were becoming extremely expensive and if not checked now, only the rich would have the chance of winning elections.

Former Law Secretary Madhav Paudel said it was high time the government provided fund to the political parties to ensure transparency. He said a certain per cent of budget could be allocated for political parties every year.

“The government can provide certain amount to all the political parties to run their activities and the rest of the allocated budget should be made available to parties on the basis of their vote share but that share should be above 1.5 per cent,” he said.

Paudel said it was high time to provide government fund to the parties that sent more than the constitutionally required percentage of marginalised groups such as women and Dalits.

Former election commissioner Birendra Mishra, however, said the threshold for parties being qualified for government’s fund should be 0.5 per cent votes and not more than that.

He argued that if the rules were made to provide government funds to parties securing one or more per cent of votes, then many fringe parties would qualify for it.

“If the government decides to provide fund to parties securing one per cent votes, only 11 parties would benefit. If such fund is provided to parties securing 1.5 per cent votes, then only eight parties including the major parties will benefit who do not need public fund anyway,” he said and added that restricting parties’ activities would be bad for democracy.

Former Chief Election Commissioner Neil Kantha Uprety said the EC had been trying since 2013 to make it mandatory for the candidates to disclose their assets in the candidacy forms but the political parties were not ready for it.

“We failed to include this provision during Constituent Assembly election in 2013 due to political parties’ opposition, this time too the ruling parties dropped this provision from the election related bill,” he said and added that public funding of election and disclosure of candidates’ asset were crucial provisions to prevent corruption in political parties.

“The current bill proposes that the candidates will have to submit their details of property to parties’ central office. This is like a thief testifying about another thief,” he added.

Uprety said business community could also contribute to the government fund meant for political parties. “Political parties get public funding in most of the democratic parties of Europe and Asia and we should not lag behind,” he argued.