The EC should leave no stone unturned to take legal action against those who violate the code of conduct

Out of the 153,000 candidates who had filed their nomination papers for various positions for the upcoming May 13 civic polls, as many as 8,000 withdrew their candidacies on Saturday as per instructions from their respective parties and local level political equation. April 29 was the last day for withdrawing candidacies, as per the election schedule published earlier by the Election Commission (EC). With the withdrawal of 8,000 candidates, a total of 145,145 candidates will be contesting the local level elections to elect a total of 35,221 positions, including mayors, deputy mayors, chairpersons, deputy chairpersons, ward chairs and ward members of 753 local levels. Some of the candidates in the mountainous districts have already been elected unopposed, and their formal announcement will be made later. As per the EC's latest update, there are a total of 17,733,723 registered voters in all the 6,743 wards.

The EC has established 10,756 polling centres and 21,955 polling booths for the local level elections. As many as 79 political parties are registered for the local level polls, while the largest number of political parties is registered in Kathmandu district, totalling 46.

The EC has also provided election symbols to all the registered political parties and independents after publishing the final list of the candidates Saturday evening. As per the rules, the CPN-UML's election symbol, the "Sun", has been placed on the first row of the ballot paper, followed by the Nepali Congress's "Tree" in accordance with their strength in the last local level elections held in 2017. The political parties without national recognition but registered with the EC have received their respective election symbols, while the independent candidates have also received their election symbols as per their choices. All the political parties and independents had filed their nominations on April 11 and 12. A voter needs to cast his/her vote for seven positions on a single ballot paper. The EC has already printed the ballot papers and transported them to the respective districts, except for the four municipalities of Bhaktapur and six metropolitan cities.

Despite the central level decision to forge an electoral alliance among the ruling coalition partners, some candidates have filed independent candidacies revolting against the official candidates, while in a couple of rural municipalities, the local ruling partners – NC and CPN-Maoist Centre – have also joined hands with the main opposition, CPN-UML. Likewise, security has been beefed up along the Nepal-India open border to ensure that no criminal activities take place close to the bordering districts during the elections. With just 10 days remaining for the candidates and political parties to launch their election campaigns, it will be difficult for them to reach out to all households, especially in the hilly and mountainous regions, with their election manifestoes. With the election fever running high in all wards, the EC and the security agencies should remain on high alter to prevent the political parties from committing any kind of violence during the campaigns. The EC also should leave no stone unturned to take legal action against those who violate the code.

Child marriage

Child and early marriage may be decreasing in Nepal, but it is still widely prevalent, according to a research report. It is difficult to trace the exact number of such early marriages as many of the cases go unreported. A survey carried out by the National Child Rights Council, under the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, shows that a total of 4,656 incidents of child, early and forced marriages (CEFM) were reported in 268 local levels in 2020- 21till April, but only 8 per cent, or 382 cases, were reported to the concerned agencies for legal action.

The National Civil Code Act 2017 has raised the legal age of marriage to 20 for both boys and girls, hoping they would be able to finish school and be financially independent by the time they marry. Despite this, Nepal sees the third highest number of child marriages in south Asia. This could be due to ignorance about the laws in society, lack of legal action, although some have been jailed for child marriage, and parents themselves committing the offense knowingly as the girl child is seen as a financial burden.

Strict implementation of the law and mandatory education for girls up to class 12 would help do away with CEFMs over time.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 02, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.