Election code enforcement delay worries experts

February 24, 2017 00:50 AM Bhadra Sharma

KATHMANDU, Feb 24: Election experts said they are worried at the massive transfer of top Nepal Police and Armed Police Force (APF) personnel and senior home ministry officials working in various districts as chief district officers (CDOs), arguing that such decisions could influence the upcoming local level elections.

The experts expressed their worries after the government transferred the top cops and CDOs as the Election Commission delays to enforce the Election Code of Conduct, going against the past practices. Taking advantage  of the election body's delay to enforce the election code of conduct, the home ministry on Thursday transferred 20 Deputy Inspectors General (DIGs) of Nepal Police. Additionally, a meeting of the ministry headed by ruling Nepali Congress (NC) leader Bimalendra Nidhi has transferred 35 under-secretaries working in various districts as CDOs. 

Though the ministry has claimed that the decision was taken before the government announced the poll date on Monday, the decision was made public only on Wednesday evening. The government on Monday evening announced May 14 as the date for the local level election. 

Transfers were made also in the APF, the paramilitary force of the government. A meeting of the ministry headed by Home Minister Nidhi has transferred 10 DIGs of APF ahead of the elections. 

The government deploys security personnel from both Nepal Police and APF during the elections while CDOs are responsible for coordinating the security. Both the police and the administrative chiefs working in the districts can influence elections, according to retired election officers. 

Along with the transfer of security officials “aimed at influencing the election”, the ministers are also lobbying for transferring money from the state coffers to their pet projects. In Monday's cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara reportedly proposed to transfer over Rs 100 billion for new programs. The proposal was, however, shelved after Chief Secretary Somlal Subedi rejected it. Citing the upcoming elections, the Chief Secretary has also instructed the senior officials at the Ministry of Finance not to approve any new development program. 

Alarmed by the Finance Minister' proposal, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has sought the details of the programs. 

Former election commissioner Dolakh Bahadur Gurung opined that the delay in enforcing the election code of conduct could fuel trust deficit among the political parties. “The election code of conduct is ready and it would have been better to enforce it immediately after the poll date announcement," said Gurung. 

Previously, the EC used to enforce the election code of conduct immediately after the announcement of the poll date to prevent the government from taking “any wrongful decision” that could influence the elections. “I don't understand why the EC is delaying to enforce the election code of conduct which is ready for use,” said former chief election commissioner (CEC) Neel Kantha Uprety. 

Gurung said that an integrated election code of conduct was prepared with the purpose of implementing it immediately after any election date announcement by the government when he was the acting CEC. The EC, however, is delaying to enforce the election code arguing that it needs to be revised. 

Had the election code of conduct been enforced immediately after the announcement of the poll date, the government wouldn't have been able to make any appointment, promotion or transfer of government officials or release budget for new development projects.

Dismayed by the EC's reluctance to enforce the election code of conduct, former election officers are preparing to meet CEC Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, according to sources privy to the development.  

When asked about the delay in enforcing the election code of conduct, Election Commissioner Sudheer Kumar Shah, who heads the Election Code of Conduct Monitoring Committee, said the code will be enforced soon. “We have no ill-intention. A committee has been formed. It will prepare the directives after consultations with the stakeholders. Then, we can enforce it, hopefully within a couple of days,” said Shah. 

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