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Parties Working To Enable Criminals To Run For Office

Now that the government has announced the date, and demarcated constituencies for the election of the House of Representatives and State Assemblies, the focus has shifted to election bills. Clause-wise deliberation of the bills by the State Affairs Committee started Friday.

The two bills for the House of Representatives and the State Assemblies, have already drawn public criticism over their provisions to allow corrupt convicts to contest in the elections. The draft bill allows a person convicted of corruption and criminal offences including murder, to participate in the parliamentary as well as provincial elections, provided there is a gap of six years between contesting in the elections and serving time.

Yesterday, Onward Nepal published a story on political parties working to control the elections, to the extent of not letting anyone know who will be picked for the Proportional Representation seats until after the election. The parties are also actively lobbying for criminals to contest in the elections.

In other words, murderers, robbers, rights abusers, defaulters, corrupt people, can contest in the elections without any hesitation. It shows the eroding morality and integrity of politics and society.

Satish Mainali, Advocate

What Kind Of Criminals Will Be Allowed To Run For Office?

Previous election laws – Constituent Assembly Act, 2064 (2007) and 2070 (2013)—had not allowed a person sentenced by a court of law on corruption charges and crimes, to run in the elections.

As per the currently proposed provision, only those who have been given life imprisonment and prison sentences over 20 years are not eligible to contest.

To put it simply, political parties are working to establish a legal basis to allow any criminal to run for office, unless they are serving a sentence of 20 or more years.

Half of the 43 amendment proposals are registered by Nepali Congress leaders. They actually demanded that individuals who have served time be allowed to contest in the elections after a gap of three years.

“What are we trying to do by creating a space for corrupt convicts and murderers to be elected to the highest posts? We are allowing the corrupt and criminals to run the country,” states Mainali.

The proposed amendments will benefit a number of leaders. Gobinda Raj Joshi, charged with corruption, has announced his candidacy in the upcoming parliamentary election from his home district, Tanahu.

In 2012, the Special Court convicted Joshi of corruption and handed down a jail term of one and a half years, and fined him Rs 21.61 million. Nepali Congress leader Joshi, has challenged the Special Court verdict at the apex court, where the case is sub judice. Joshi will be able to contest if the proposed provision is endorsed by Parliament.

Nepali Congress leader Khum Bahadur Khadka, was elected to the Central Working Committee despite having served a year and a half in jail for corruption. He was also fined Rs 9.47 million. When Khadka was released in 2013, he received a hero’s welcome from a crowd that had gathered at the Dilli bazaar jail. He is powerful in Dang district, and stands to benefit from the proposed amendment.

On Wednesday, the government set November 26 and December 7 as the dates for parliamentary and provincial elections, to be conducted in two phases.

The Constituency Delimitation Commission also submitted a report to the government readjusting the existing 240 parliament constituencies into 165 constituencies, apparently based on population size and geography. The Commission has determined 330 constituencies for provincial elections – two constituencies for each federal constituency.

The third phase of Local Elections has also been scheduled for September 18 in Province 2.

Author’s email: Dewan[at]OnwardNepal.com
On Twitter: @RDewan