Parties Draft Bill to Undermine Voters, Control Election
In an election bill currently proposed in the State Affairs Committee, political parties have expressed their intention to control the elections as much as possible, to the extent of not letting anyone know who will be picked for the Proportional Representation seats until after the election. The Committee will approve one version of this, after which it will be presented to the Parliament. A final decision on the bill is to be made within a matter of weeks.
The provision related to the election of Proportional Representation (PR) in the proposed election bill has made a mockery of the true spirit of Proportional Representation, according to former Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety. “The provision has created room for political corruption,” he says. “It has been drafted in a way that allows political parties to nominate the people of their choice, completely defeating the purpose of having a PR election.”
Nepal adopted a mixed election system in 2008 during the Constituent Assembly (CA) election. Proportional Representation was to guarantee representation of marginalised communities. This did make Nepal’s parliament the most inclusive in the South Asian region with female representation of over 33 percent. Janajati, Dalit, and Muslim communities also had a significant presence in parliament. It has also, however, been used by parties to allow campaign contributors and owners of big business houses become Members of Parliament.
Not Telling Voters Who They Are Voting For
Should a voter not be informed about the person they elect? If political parties are to have their way, that is exactly what will happen. Votes will be cast, but parties will decide who will represent that vote.
“Voters have the right to know who they are voting for. Therefore, a closed list of candidates must be submitted beforehand, for the Election Commission to announce results,” said Uprety. “It is not a pool of random candidates for political parties to choose from.”
Political parties did not strictly adhere to this PR norm even in the first CA election of 2008. Now, political parties want to remove this requirement entirely. Removing this requirement would mean that a Party is legally allowed to randomly select their PR nominees after votes have been cast. In other words, a party would no longer be required to adhere to the spirit of the PR system designed to enable members of the minority groups. Instead, a party would be legally allowed to use their PR seats for anyone they wanted.
How Can Parties Randomly Select Candidates After Election?
The House of Representatives comprises of 275 members. Of that, 165 members are elected through the First Past the Post electoral system, and 110 are elected through the Proportional Representation system. As per PR norms, political parties are required to prepare a list of 110 candidates for PR positions and submit it to the Election Commission. The list should also mention the candidates in the order they are to be picked. Parties cannot make their pick after the First Past The Post result. But the current draft bill gives political parties the power to choose members of the House of Representatives.
Neel Kantha Uprety, Fmr. Chief Election Commissioner
It promotes ill practices that we saw in previous elections. PR seats were allocated in exchange for donation to the party. This should be considered a criminal error in the election system.
Political Parties Consolidating Control Of Election:
Clause 60 of the draft bill literally hands over the authority of the Election Commission in declaring election results of PR nominees to political parties. The bill also allows the government authority to announce the election date. Political parties appear to be seriously limiting the role and authority of the Election Commission.
“The Election Commission is given the authority to fix an election date and conduct elections independently to guarantee periodic election,” says Uprety. “What if the government or political parties do not want to hold a periodic election? What if it keeps delaying the date and never conducts a poll?”
Nepal conducted Local Elections this year, after a gap of almost two decades because the government was not willing to have elections. The current government has changed the dates for national and provincial elections twice. The Local Elections took place in three phases, while the national and provincial polls are scheduled to be held in two phases.
Author’s email: Dewan[at]OnwardNepal.com
On Twitter: @RDewan