EDITORIAL: Decks cleared

The EC now must take informed consent of political parties to choose the counting method of NA election

The cloud of political uncertainty has been cleared after the government on Wednesday nominated, though belatedly, Chiefs of State (Governors) in all seven provinces and fixed temporary provincial headquarters to operate the provincial governments until a final arrangement is made. The Election Commission (EC) also announced the results of provincial proportional representation (PR), the elections for which were held on November 26 and December 7, immediately after the Cabinet meeting announced names of provincial governors and fixed the ad hoc provincial headquarters. The EC will have to submit the election results to the governors of the respective provinces within a week of the announcement of the final results. The EC was withholding the results of 220 provincial PR assembly members for more than a month since the election because of no appointment of the governors. It is the governors who will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the elected provincial assembly members. The EC will also publish names of the winners in the Nepal Gazette soon after the governors are sworn in by the President. Appointments of governors and naming of temporary provincial headquarters were necessary for electing the 59-member National Assembly (NA). Both the tasks are interlinked as the provincial assembly members and, chiefs and deputy-chiefs of local level units comprise an electoral college for the NA.

According to the constitutional provision, name list of provincial assembly has to be submitted to the governor within seven days of announcement of the provincial election results. It is also required to call the first meeting of the provincial assembly within 20 days after the publication of the election results. Election of the chief minister and formation of provincial governments should also be completed within 30 days as per the constitutional provision. The provincial Speaker and Deputy Speaker should also be elected within 15 days of the first assembly meeting. Similarly, the chief minister must take the vote of confidence of the concerned assembly within 30 days of his/her appointment. After these constitutional formalities are completed the concerned assembly will decide on the provincial capitals with a two-thirds majority.

Decks have been cleared for the election of the National Assembly, scheduled for February 7, after the government appointed the governors and named the ad hoc provincial headquarters. However, the EC has yet to decide on which of the methods — Last Parcel Method or Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method — will be applied to count votes cast under the Single Transferable Vote system. The EC must take informed consent of the political parties before any one of the methods is chosen to count the votes. Apart from this, the political parties should also try their best to pacify their cadres and general people who have taken to the streets over naming of ad hoc headquarters of some provinces. They must tell them that these are temporary measures. A final decision to this effect will be taken only by the concerned provincial assemblies with a two-thirds majority. The government did not have any other option than to take an ad hoc measure. The political parties’ role is crucial to bring the tense situation under control.

Build back better

Lack of trained masons has left earthquake victims in Ramechhap with no option than to hire unskilled workers to build their houses. The government’s mid-January deadline of completing the damp-proof course for receiving the second tranche of the housing grant prompted the quake survivors to hire untrained masons from various districts. This has resulted in building of houses without meeting the criteria set by the government. According to Sureshraj Giri, an engineer who is responsible for inspecting the newly built houses, a lot of houses have failed to meet the criteria for building quake-resilient houses.

There are 43,000 earthquake victims in the district, but the number of trained masons stands at only 4,000. Earlier the government, in coordination with various non-government organisations, had organised a training programme with an aim to produce skilled human resource for rebuilding. But very few people took part in the training. With no trained masons available, reconstruction works have slowed down. Hiring untrained masons to build houses could also deprive the quake victims of the grant.