February 22, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Independence of Electoral Body

The Nepal Weekly
June 12, 2023

People’s voice and choice matter in democracies. Election is the instrument which honours that point in practice. For free and fair election, an independent electoral body should be allowed to function without any interference from government and others. Although the current government knows these points well, it took an undemocratic decision to dismiss district level offices of the Election Commission from the fiscal 2023-24. It is actually not authorized to do so because the EC in Nepal is a constitutional body independent and free to take decision on all aspects of poll and issues related to it. All political parties represented in the parliament and others raised objections to the government’s decision. They are right to do so and the government will be compelled to change its decision. It is unfortunate for a democratically elected government to interfere into the affairs of the EC. Whether to have offices at the district level offices for poll purposes or not is basically for the EC to decide. The government’s move could be interpreted as an attempt to bring one part of EC’s function under the jurisdiction of district administration which functions under the government. If that is done one part of EC’s function will be under the control of the government in power and the same will not be helpful in organizing elections in a free, fair and independent manner as envisaged by the constitution. It is good that all raised objections to interference into the EC’s jurisdiction. The same shows people have developed a sense of alertness and caution about the need for having free and fair poll. Government’s district offices cannot work as substitute for EC, and they should in no way be given that responsibility. It is entirely a different matter if EC requests the government to facilitate it through the district offices. In that case the control will be in the hand of the EC which is capable of ensuring its independent constitutional status.  It is thanks to such status of EC that Nepal could hold five yearly elections at local, provincial and federal level a few months ago. The same had been done six years ago as well. The institutional memory of the EC at all levels is important for maintaining a healthy electoral process. Any attempt to go against this would not be considered democratic. That is why the provision made in the budget for dropping the EC offices at district level should be dropped and the EC should once again be allowed to take decisions for itself in an independent manner.