EDITORIAL: Poll expenses

The Election Commission Act and rules have given power to poll body to take legal actions against those who don’t abide by the law

It has been seven months since the parliamentary and provincial elections were held. However, as many as 16 fringe political parties which won none of the seats – under the first-past-the-post (FPtP) and proportional representation (PR) – in the parliamentary and provincial elections have submitted their election expenditure details to the Election Commission (EC). According to Section 24 of the Election Commission Act, 2017 all the political parties and their candidates as well as independent ones are required to submit their election expense details within 30 days after the final results of the elections are out. Altogether 49 political parties had contested the parliamentary elections under FPtP and PR. Of them, Nepal Communist Party – the new political outfit born after the then CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre unified on May 17 – Nepali Congress, Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal and other fringe parties which have won at least one parliamentary or provincial seat have, however, submitted their election expenditure details within the deadline. Many candidates of the National Assembly, the election of which was held in all seven provinces on February 7, also have not submitted details of election expenses, according to the EC.

The Election Commission Act had set expenditure limit of Rs 2.5 million for federal election under the FPtP. The ceiling was raised by 150 per cent from the second Constituent Assembly elections held in 2013. A candidate contesting provincial election under the FPtP could spend Rs 1.5 million. A parliamentary PR candidate was allowed to spend Rs 200,000 from the previous Rs 75,000. The EC had agreed to increase the expenditure limit considering the inflation rate in the last four years and expansion of geography of all constituencies as they had been reduced from 240 in 2013 to 165 in 2017. The election expenditure limit was set to make sure that all candidates have a level playing field during the elections.

It is weakness on the part of the EC to not take any legal action against those political parties which flouted the EC Act, Rules and code of conduct. The Election Commission Act and its rules have given power to take legal actions against those who don’t abide by the law. The EC can impose a fine to the erring political parties and even de-register them with the EC. The EC must be prepared to bar those political parties which did not submit election expense details within the timeframe from contesting the next elections. It was everybody’s guess that all candidates had spent much more than what had been set by the EC. This shows candidates of all political parties did not confine to the expenses limit set by EC. It is, therefore, high time that the EC started serious discussions with the “national status” political parties to repeal the existing law. One of the best options to cut growing election expenses, which also is a matter of serious concern even for the political parties, is introducing a bill in Parliament under which all political parties are financed by the State itself in proportion to the votes they poll. The EC had earlier come up with this idea. But the parties refused to subscribe its views.

Nutrition problem

Nepal has made significant progress in nutrition. That said, malnutrition is still prevalent in many parts of the country. According to a report, more than 16,000 children are suffering from malnutrition in Dolakha. Though this is only 2.92 per cent of the total number of children in the district, according to a survey, this shows we are yet to eliminate malnutrition from the district. Similar patterns could be possible in other parts of the country, as according to the national data, around 36 per cent of children in Nepal suffer from stunting, 10 per cent from wasting and almost 53 per cent from anaemia.

Child marriage, lack of sanitation, low intake of fruits and nutritious foods, lack of access to health facilities as well as lack of awareness among the people, mainly mothers, about the need of enough nutrition in body have directly or indirectly contributed to malnutrition. The government’s second phase of Multisector Nutrition Plan (2018-2022) targets women, children and adolescent girls. There is a need to executive the plan in an effective way so as to combat malnutrition. Awareness about ways to access health systems can also help in reducing malnutrition.