Nepal | January 18, 2021

EDITORIAL: Poll Preparations

The Himalayan Times
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As per the apex court order, the govt must enact a law allowing voting right of the migrant workers from their host countries

Shortly after President Bidhya Devi Bhandari announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) on the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on December 20, the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) said it was ready to hold the mid-term elections scheduled for April 30 and May 10.

It said it needed a total of 120 days to conduct the elections and said it was ready to conduct the polls even on a single phase. Should the Supreme Court quash the House dissolution move, there will be no need to make preparations for the elections until the next two years. Otherwise, the ECN appears to be fully prepared for the mid-term polls provided the government arranges logistics support for the same.

It has already started updating the voters’ list for the mid-term polls, which will elect 165 members under the first-past-the-post system and 110 members under the PR system. Besides updating the voters’ rolls, the constitutional body is also responsible for conducting and monitoring the elections, registering the political parties and candidates as well as declaring the election results. ECN officials said they had already prepared a draft of their action plan for the upcoming polls.

Although the ECN has said it is ready to hold the mid-term polls as announced by the government, it will require a huge budget to do so. How will the government mobilise the resources when the government is under pressure to fight against the coronavirus? Besides providing regular logistics support for the ECN, the government will also have to make additional arrangement of PPEs, face masks and other health safety measures for all the staffers deployed for the polls.

In the last federal and provincial elections, the ECN had spent over Rs 7 billion to hold both types of elections. This time around, budget for holding the HoR elections would be much higher than that of three years ago due to the outbreak of the pandemic.

It should also be noted that the apex court on March 23, 2018 had issued a directive order to the government to ensure the voting right of the migrant workers from their host destinations. There are around 4 million Nepalis working as migrant workers in various countries. In its order, the apex court had said since millions of Nepalis have been sending remittances to their families back home and contributing to the national economy, the government should enact a law allowing them to exercise their voting right from the host countries. But the government did not table a bill in parliament to this effect despite the apex court’s order. The government can issue an ordinance in this regard to ensure the voting right of the migrant workers through mail-in ballots. The government has also not paid attention to the ECN’s repeated call for fixing election dates on its own. The government needs to amend the existing law should the ECN declare the election dates on its own. However, the major political parties were averse to the idea of allowing the ECN to fix the election dates for the three tiers of government, fearing that they might lose their covert control over the constitutional body.

The government can announce the elections, but the ECN should be allowed to fix the election dates as per its convenience.

Returnees find work

 

Nepal can no longer afford to be an import-based economy. True, starting an enterprise here is not easy, given its primitive infrastructure, where lack of good roads, railways, power and human resource is a ground reality. However, there are sectors, especially in agriculture, where youths could be gainfully employed.

More than two-thirds of the Nepali population may be engaged in agriculture, but we import everything from rice and pulses to vegetables and meat, which could very well be produced here in the country. Farmers have experience raising chicken and goats and growing vegetables, and giving a commercial touch to them could do wonders for them.

The pandemic may have wiped out jobs for our youths in foreign lands. But maybe it is a boon in some ways because many returning migrant workers are engaging in poultry and pig farming, goat keeping, dairying, mushroom cultivation and opening small lodges. Many of them are finding that these small businesses are giving them much more returns than what they were earning in the Gulf countries or Malaysia. With quality training in different professions, youths could be tempted to stay in Nepal and start ventures of their own.

 

 

 


A version of this article appears in print on December 29, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


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