EC says same day polls is a challenge but is ready to face it to implement constitution
KATMANDU, Aug 21: After a series of consultations among the political parties and with the Election Commission (EC), the government has set November 26 as the date for both parliamentary and provincial assembly elections. A Cabinet meeting on Monday decided to conduct both the elections on the same day.
The decision was taken in view of the time constraints against conducting the two elections separately as the constitutional deadline for concluding all three sets of elections is fast approaching. The constitution has a provision requiring completion of all three sets of elections--local, provincial and parliamentary-- by January 21. Although the election body has already conducted local elections except in Province 2, the provincial and parliamentary elections are yet to take place.
Emerging from the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Information and Communications Mohan Bahadur Basnet informed that November 26 was recommended as the date for both elections.
The EC has welcomed the government's decision although it said managing two crucial elections on the same day would be a daunting task as there are only a limited number of days left before the constitutional deadline. The election body said they will brace for the challenge. Considering the difficulties in holding both the elections the same day, the election body had earlier suggested to the government that the elections should be conducted in phases.
Election commissioners have suggested to the government to conduct elections in 31 mountain and hill districts on November 20 and in the remaining districts in a second round. December 7 was suggested for the second round. "Till the third week of September we will be busy arranging the last round of local elections in Province 2. So, holding both the remaining elections at one go will be a really daunting task, but we have no option but to face the challenge," said Election Commissioner Ishwori Paudyal.
There will be only 69 days to prepare for provincial and parliamentary elections by the time the third round of local elections takes place. Printing the ballot papers and arranging two elections the same day will be technically fraught, according to the election officials.
Chances of using electronic voting machines have become slim due to time constraints against procuring the machines and educating voters about the technical aspects.
In view of this, the EC wants to use conventional ballot papers. "We are yet to see the electoral laws enacted and receive the report of the election constituency delineation commission. This has impacted our poll preparations," said Commissioner Paudyal.
Keeping the time constraints in mind, the EC plans to print two kinds of ballot papers--one for proportional representation (PR) and the other for first-past-the-post (FPTP).
The EC has to print 30 million ballot papers and transport them to the polling stations within a short span of time. The ballot papers for PR for both parliamentary and provincial assembly polls will be printed first.
The ballot papers are arranged in such a way that people can cast their PR votes for parliament and the provincial assembly through a single ballot paper. A separate ballot paper will be printed for FPTP. "That's why we have called on the parties contesting under PR to come forward by August 27. We can then begin printing the ballot papers for PR," said Narendra Dahal, another election commissioner. .