Govt writes to EC for local poll preparations

February 3, 2017 01:10 AM Sangeet Sangroula

Oppn and others smell rat behind govt move
KATHMANDU, Feb 3: The government has written formally to the Election Commission (EC) to make necessary preparations for holding local polls. However, it remains undecided over the poll date and whether the polls are to  be held under the existing structures or as per the new federal setup.

Some election experts and opposition party leaders  have taken the government's decision as a move to further dillydally over local polls.  

A cabinet meeting held at Singha Durbar on Thursday decided to write to the EC, requesting it to make necessary preparations for holding the local polls as almost all the necessary election-related laws have already been endorsed by parliament, informed Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Bahadur Karki, who is also the spokesperson of the government. 

However, the government in its letter to the EC has not said anything about possible dates for the local polls   even though the prime minister has been stating publicly that the polls will be held by mid-May. Similarly, the government has also not said anything about whether the local polls will be held under the existing structures or as per the new federal setup.  

Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transportation Ramesh Lekhak said the decision ensures that the local polls will be held soon even though possible dates have not been mentioned in the letter to the EC. 

Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said the government's move was 'positive' in terms of expediting logistical preparations for the polls. "We have taken the cabinet decision as a positive one. This will make it easy for us to avail the necessary logistics for holding the polls," he said 

The meeting also decided to form a three-member committee under the coordination of Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development Hit Raj Pandey to study the problems seen over the delineation of  new local units particularly in Province 2, and suggest within two weeks necessary changes to be made in the report submitted by the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC), informed Minister Karki. He said the government will make necessary annoucements related to local polls on the basis of the committee's recommedations to the government.  

He said that Minister for Labour and Employment Deepak Bohora and Minister for Industry Nabindra Raj Joshi have been appointed members of the committee while the secretary at the Ministry for Federal Affairs and Local Development is member-secretary. 

Madhes-based partites have been saying that they won't accept the LLRC report unless it recognizes population as the main basis for delineation of the new local units. Similarly, they have been demanding that the local units be placed under the jurisdiction of the provinces.   

Oppn parties, others smell rat 

Although the government and the EC have taken the move positively, the main opposition party and independent experts have voiced suspicions over the intention behind the government's decision.
 
Leader of the main opposition party CPN-UML, Agni Kharel, said the government's decision is a clear case of its dilly-dallying over announcing the poll date. “There is nothing that stops the government from announcing the date for elections. Yet it is making various excuses to delay the elections even though the necessary laws are now in place,” he said.

Kharel also alleged that the government was not in favor of holding the polls on time. “The government is unnecessarily fuzzy even though parliament has already passed an election bill that clearly states the local polls will be held under the new federal setup,” he added. 

Former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety said the government decision does not make any substantial difference to the EC except for making it easier to seek necessary financial and logistical resources. “The preparations for elections cannot begin until the government endorses the report of the Local Level Restructuring Commission,” he said. 

Uprety argued that the government's decision to ask the EC to prepare for the elections rather helps only to avoid the elections. “This can help prolong the incumbency of those in government as it can give an impression that the government is committed to holding the polls,” he further said.

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