KATHMANDU, Feb 27: Even as the government has fixed May 14 as the poll date, the Election Commission (EC) is yet to begin ‘actual preparations’ for the local elections thanks to the government’s dillydallying in forging consensus among political parties. The EC also lacks crucial documents required for conducting elections.
Election officials involved in poll preparations say they are in a fix to begin ‘actual preparations’ in the absence of the report of Local Level Restructuring Commission and a law related to political parties. The report is said to be crucial for fixing polling stations and deploying officials to manage elections at the local level.
In the absence of crucial documents, election commissioners and officials have limited their tasks to series of discussions with concerned stakeholders and ways on how to arrange the logistics within the stipulated timeframe.
The key tasks of elections -- fixing polling stations, designing ballot papers and procuring essentials --have not yet begun.
“We are facing some difficulties to expedite preparations since the government has not yet provided Local Level Restructuring Commission report. This has affected in fixing the polling stations, finalize voters’ list and ballot papers,” said Gopinath Mainali, secretary at the EC.
The election body has been tasked by the government to conduct the elections within the shortest time period ever in the history of the country. Now onward, only 76 days are left to complete the preparations for elections. Going against previous tradition, the government this time had mandated the EC to conduct the elections on May 14 without finalizing the number of local bodies. The LLRC had fixed 719 local bodies but controversy has surfaced after the agitating Madhes-based parties demanded half of the total units be allotted from 20 districts of the southern plains.
Following the controversy, the government is struggling to finalize the report that has largely affected the election body’s actual predatory works. In the absence of the important document, the EC is clueless about the number of parties contesting the elections, size of ballot papers and polling stations. The delay has also affected the task of verification of voters registered with the EC. Around 14 million voters are registered with the election body but their verification has been affected as the EC has failed to finalize the number of polling stations so far.
Secretary Mainali said that the EC has not been able deploy officials on the ground, fix the polling stations, design the ballot papers and print them among other preparatory works. Since the number of parties contesting in the elections in expected to increase, the size of ballot paper is believed to be larger than previous ones.
An assessment conducted by the EC says it requires additional 20,000 to 25,000 ballot boxes, each of it being equivalent to the size of 80-liter bucket, to conduct the elections. Those, who used to earlier provide the ballot boxes have refused to deliver them this time citing the lack of adequate time to produce them. Previously, Japan had donated ballot boxes required for the elections. This time, the Japanese government, however, declined to provide them arguing that it requires at least five months to produce ballot boxes.
“Arranging ballot boxes has also been a matter of problem for us. Although we have already some 70,000 ballot boxes, we need additional nearly 25,000 ballot boxes to handle polling stations where maximum number of political parties are contesting,” said Mainali.
After seeing no possibility of getting ballot boxes from donors, the EC is preparing to call public tender this week. The EC, which has made an agreement with the Janak Sikshya Samagri Kendra, for printing ballot papers has still no idea how many types of ballot papers it has to produce and the time required to complete the printing.