EDITORIAL: Election fever

The new local level has been given vast powers but the previous local bodies did not have much power at their disposal

The entire nation has geared up for civic polls to be held on May 14. The Election Commission (EC) is in full swing preparing from printing ballot papers to photo-based identity cards based on which voters will exercise their franchise to elect their local representatives.

The civic polls are being held after almost two decades. The last time the local bodies elections were held was in 1997. The EC has already finalized the electoral rolls where a total of 14,054,482 people have registered their names.

People who turned 18 years by February 20 this year and have their names registered with the EC are eligible for voting. Of the total eligible voters 7,069,714 are males and 6,984,625 are females.

According to the EC, the largest number of voters is in Morang where there are 563,870 voters, and the least number of voters is in Manang where 5,095 people have registered their names in the electoral rolls.

The local level elections are being held under the new constitution in four metropolitan cities, 13 sub-metropolitan cities, 246 municipalities and 481 rural municipalities. The civic election is going to be the first step towards implementing the new constitution adopted on September 20, 2015.

The EC has said it started printing three sets of voters’ lists and voters’ identity cards with photographs at the EC premises under tight security. Seven or eight types of ballot papers are being printed at Janak Educational Material Centre which is scheduled to complete its task of printing all the ballot papers in two weeks to come.

Different-sized ballot papers are being printed for every district because of varied numbers of political parties and independent candidates. Over 140 million voters will be electing 36,639 representatives in all 6,680 wards of the local level which will play the role of the executive, legislature and judiciary.

The EC is also procuring required logistics support, such as the indelible ink, and 30,000 new ballot boxes from outside the country.

Election fever has gripped all the political parties, their cadres and voters in every nook and corner of the country. Reports pouring in from all over the country suggest that people are eager to take part in the polls of local government which will exercise almost 37 rights given by the new constitution.

While the major political parties are making preparations for the civic polls, voters are also not far behind in making assessments about prospective candidates of their local level government.

Voters’ education is very important at the grass-roots level as the new local level has been given vast powers to exercise as compared to the previous local bodies which did not have much power at their disposal.

Meanwhile, Balananda Poudel, erstwhile chairman of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, which recommended 744 local level units, has cautioned that the political parties must carefully field their candidates who are educated and well-experienced in politics, finance and legal issues so that they can run the local-level government effectively.

A mayor/deputy mayor of a municipality and chairman/deputy chairman of a rural municipality have been given power to act as speaker and judge. A such, the voters must elect those who can discharge their duties responsibly.

Free dialysis

The government has started offering free dialysis services in several hospitals, which is a welcome development. It has also extended the availability of this facility to private hospitals in cities like Biratnagar and Pokhara for the sake of convenience of patients outside the capital city.

Dialysis service is very expensive and the majority of people are not able to afford them. The present arrangement means that patients could seek such treatment from nearby centres. The government would be reimbursing the private hospitals for carrying out such services.

But dialysis services also require total medical care other than dialysis machines, including the services of a nephrologist, as dialysis patients develop complications frequently.

Free services are a big relief for the patients. Furthermore, kidney transplantation has also been started in the country. This will save the patients a lot of money, time and much inconvenience.

Work should also be initiated towards developing the system under which organs could be used from brain-dead people.

At present, 32 hospitals, including the Human Organ Transplant Centre and National Kidney Centre, are providing dialysis services in Nepal.