What You Need To Know: Election Bills Endorsed

The Parliament has endorsed the two election bills: Bill on Election of Members of House of Representatives, and Bill on Election of Members of Provincial Assembly. This paves the way for the scheduled national and provincial elections. The elections have been scheduled in two phases on November 26 and December 7.

The two bills were stuck in the State Affairs Committee for over a month after Nepali Congress (NC) lawmakers registered amendment proposals to the bills, seeking a concession period for individuals convicted for corruption and criminal offenses in order for them to contest in the polls. As many as 19 NC lawmakers had proposed corruption convicts and criminals be allowed to participate following a gap of three years after their jail sentences.

Onward Nepal published two articles – Parties Draft Bill to Undermine Voters, Control Election, and Parties Working To Enable Criminals To Run For Office–over the weekend, discussing these bills and their implications.

The bills, endorsed on Monday, retained the original provisions regarding the qualification for individuals for member of House of Representatives as well as Provincial Assembly. Now, an individual convicted of corruption and criminal offenses, such as corruption, rape, abduction, money laundering, human trafficking, smuggling, will not be eligible to run in the elections. However, a murder convict, except in life imprisonment or life sentence, can contest in the election six years after their jail term.

“We retained the original provisions of the bills, which are in line with constitutional provisions,” Committee Chair Dil Bahadur Gharti, told Onward Nepal. “All laws should be consistent with the Constitution. The issue of moral turpitude of the individuals running for the election has been resolved.”

‘Right To No Vote’ Defeated

Despite a Supreme Court ruling, Parliament rejected the provision of Right to No Vote in the election bills. Lawmakers, mostly from the CPN-UML had strongly objected to the provision, arguing it would invite political instability in the country.

Government Takes Control Of Election

Parliament retained the provision that allows the government to decide the election date, a contested issue with some believing it undermines the role of the Election Commission. Now, the Commission will remain an implementing agency of the government.

Nepal conducted Local Elections this year, after 16 years, as the government did not deem it to be necessary. Although it was against the idea of periodic election, the constitutional body could do nothing. The elections were conducted in three phases. The national and provincial elections are also scheduled to be held in two phases as per the government’s will.

Parties Decide PR Candidate

Similarly, the election laws now give discretionary power to parties for the selection of nominees for proportional representation quotas. This means political parties will get to choose their own people for the post.

Most Criminals Can Run For Office

Nepali Congress leaders Khum Bahadur Khadka, Gobinda Raj Joshi, Chiranjibi Wagle, and JP Gupta who are all all corruption convicts, will not be able to run in the national and provincial polls this year, as they were released around 3 years ago. However, the election law allows them to contest in the next polls.

The election laws bar only those who have been given life imprisonment and prison sentences over 20 years from contesting in the national and provincial polls. Others may now contest in the elections after a six-year waiting period.