KATHMANDU, Nov 11: Concerned over the series of poll violence incidents during the ongoing campaigning for parliamentary and provincial assembly elections, the Election Commission (EC) has called a high-level meeting of security agency chiefs and senior government officials for Sunday. The meeting will discuss how to meet security challenges and ensure that the elections are free of fear, according to senior election officials.
The move has been taken as candidates continue to face attacks with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the course of their election campaigns. A day after cadres said to be aligned with the Biplab-led Maoists hurdled two bombs at the car of minister without portfolio and CPN (Maoist Center) leader Janardan Sharma in Rukum, another Maoist leader, Barshaman Pun, was ambushed on Saturday. Pun, who is also a former finance minister, and the other poll campaigners with him survived the accident, but their car was damaged in the blast.
"We are concerned over the safety of the candidates and voters. That's why the chiefs of the security agencies and secretaries dealing with poll security are being summoned to the Commission to discuss poll security," said Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, terming the attacks against candidates undemocratic.
Chiefs of security agencies--Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, National Investigation Department and Nepal Army-and the secretaries of the home and defense ministries will attend the meeting, together with the election commissioners. Security agencies have already presented an integrated security plan to the election commissioners. But the commissioners are said not to be reassured by the plan, while cases of poll violence continue to be reported.
CEC Yadav said attacks against candidates were a matter of serious concern. "This is not good for elections, but we are committed to holding the polls," said the election chief, stressing the need for foolproof security.
EC officials are worried as the Home Ministry, the line ministry responsible for arranging poll security, remains without a designated minister while the two crucial elections are fast approaching.
Failing to assign a full-time minister to oversee the Home Ministry after he took over the portfolio himself, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has asked the home secretary to handle poll security. The Home Ministry portfolio has been without leadership after the CPN (Maoist Center) forged an electoral alliance with the main opposition CPN-UML in early October. Following the changed political alignment, Janardan Sharma of the Maoists was removed from the home portfolio.
In the absence of a dedicated line minister, the Home Ministry has not been able to organize regional security gatherings in time to address the security challenges, said ministry officials.
The Biplab-led Maoist party, which is a splinter from Maoist Center, is opposing the elections. In recent days, it has targeted Maoist Center candidates, accusing that party of deceiving cadres in ending the Maoist insurgency without achieving its target. EC officials fear poll violence could increase in the days to come.