EDITORIAL: By-election code

EC must thoroughly check for any criminal background of a person after he/she files nomination for a public post to be elected by the voters

The Election Commission (EC) issued a code of conduct on October 25 in view of the by-elections scheduled to take place on November 30 for 52 vacant posts to be filled by elected representatives at the local, provincial and central levels. The code of conduct came into effect the day the EC issued the statement to this effect after consulting the political parties taking part in the election process. The EC has said the code will remain effective until the completion of the by-elections. The code, according to the EC, will help conduct the by-elections in a free, fair, transparent and fear-free manner. However, the code of conduct is applicable only for the districts and local levels where the by-elections will be held. The by-elections will be conducted for one member of the House of Representatives — Kaski-2 from where then CPN-UML candidate Rabindra Adhikari died in a chopper crash in Pathibhara, Taplejung on February 27 — three Provincial Assembly members and 48 chiefs/ deputy-chiefs and ward chairs of the local levels. The said posts of the elected office bearers had fallen vacant due to various reasons, such as deaths, promotion, resignation and imprisonment.

The election code bars the federal, provincial and local level governments from implementing new programmes, participating in election campaigns, using public buildings and vehicles, creating any new posts and transferring civil servants, promoting and deputing employees, sanctioning foreign junkets, increasing facilities and distributing prizes until the by-elections are concluded in the given districts and local levels. The code has also issued guidelines for the political parties, candidates, mass media, non-governmental organisations and observers. However, the code will not bar the Public Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission, Nepali Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force from filling their vacant posts in the areas concerned. It has barred the political parties or groups from holding election rallies using vehicles. Similarly, no candidate will be allowed to organise a public meeting, rally and assembly after filing his or her nomination until the results are out.

According to the EC, 20,000 new voters are expected to exercise their franchise in the by-elections. New voter identity cards will be printed for them while others will be required to produce their old identity cards to cast their votes in the by-elections. According to the Election Law, a by-election should be held within six months after an elected post has fallen vacant. But the by-elections are being held bypassing the legal requirement. Such practice should not be repeated in the days to come. On the other hand, the EC should also thoroughly check for any criminal background of a person after he or she files nomination for a public post to be elected by popular vote. Some of the persons who had a nefarious past also got elected in the three tiers of government, largely because of the EC’s weak institutional mechanism. The general people, all political parties and members of the civil society should also cooperate with the EC in preventing persons with criminal backgrounds from joining politics. Such an initiative will help keep criminals out of politics.

Fair transport fare

The government is said to be working on a new mechanism to determine the public transportation fare. Until now, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) had fixed the fare based on the cost of non-fuel items, such as vehicles, spare parts, labour, tyres and lubricants, which carry 65 per cent weightage, plus the price of fuel. The mechanism was introduced a decade back in 2009, and there are complaints that it does not take into consideration inflation. Regardless of which mechanism the DoTM uses to determine the new transport fares, it should be fair to both the passengers and the transport entrepreneurs.

For the fare passengers pay, they deserve a seat in a vehicle and not be packed like sardines. Transport is a public service, and the commuters ought to be treated properly and not be at the mercy of the public transport operators. The entrepreneurs are making heavy profits by running their vehicles irregularly on their routes and carrying passengers beyond their capacity. Buses are rarely to be found when they are mostly needed, especially in the evening hours. Having the public buses issue tickets to the commuters will reveal how much profit they make in a day.