KATHMANDU, Jan 19: The Election Commission (EC) has said that the local elections will not happen in May-June if issues related to the elections are not settled within the next 10 days.
Calculating 120 days as the required time span for poll preparations, the election body has concluded that the elections cannot taken place within this summertime window if the government fails to clear the election laws, implement the report of the local level restructuring commission, forge political consensus, and do all this by January 28.
"If the electoral laws and other technical issues are not settle within the next 10 days, we will not be able to hold any type of election during this summer window," said Election Commissioner Ila Sharma, adding, "Going by the working style that obtains, we are not so hopeful that the long-standing issues will be sorted out within a short time."
The government's delay in clearing the difficulties facing the election body has lowered the chances of holding local elections in May-June as promised.
The election body is urging the government to clear the legal hurdles and arrange the logistics in time to ensure timely elections.
The EC, which has already ruled out any possibility of local polls in April, says the chances of polls in May-June are also shrinking, given the delay from the government side in creating an election-friendly environment.
The EC, which plans to conduct the local elections in two phases, says this will require an interval of at least 15 days to prepare for the next-phase poll. "If the government does everything that we have been demanding by January 28, we can announce a poll date within February 2. Otherwise, we don't see any possibility of elections in May-June," said Sharma.
Even almost two weeks after the Local Level Restructuring Commission submitted its report, the government has yet to acknowledge it, while the agitating Madhes-based parties have been demanding that the report be revised as per the population residing in the 20 districts of the southern plains.
Additionally, three laws related to local elections are pending at parliament and two more laws are yet to be tabled.
The delay in clearing the needed laws has put the election body in a fix over beginning the poll preparations. The EC is clueless how to arrange for voter IDs, deployment of officials, training them and preparation of ballot papers within such a short time. It has not been able to begin its pre-election preparations and formulate its work schedule.
"The poll preparations remain hugely affected as things remain unclear what type of elections are taking place and when," said EC spokesperson Surya Prasad Sharma.
Election officials believe managing the local elections will be relatively difficult as it is taking place after nearly two decades, and under the new local structures.
Furthermore, the election body is worried whether the ballot papers can be printed by the existing printing machines at Janak Siksha Samagri Kendra. Currently, 110 political parties are registered with the EC and election officials believe the ballot paper could be longer than three feet even if only 50 parties participate in the elections.
If the EC misses this summer window for holding local elections, political circles fear that the constitutional requirement of holding three sets of elections-local, provincial and central-- by January 2018 may not be met. Nepal's climatic conditions offer two windows for elections-spring and autumn. The first election needs to be completed before mid-June if the two remaining elections are to be held before the constitutional deadline.
"Now onwards, it is very challenging to hold three sets of elections within the stipulated deadline. I don't see such a possibility unless there is a miracle," said former chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel.