EC to conduct local polls in free-fair manner: Dr Yadav
With the announcement of the local elections, Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Ayodhee Prasad Yadav has pulled out all the stops to conduct the polls successfully. Born into a humble family at Prasabani VDC of Saptari district, Dr. Yadav was appointed an election commissioner in 2007. A PhD holder and a Masters in Economics gold medalist, Dr. Yadav has had the experience of conducting both the Constituent Assembly elections in the capacity of a commissioner. He was elevated to the post of Acting Chief Election Commissioner on August 28, 2015.
Dr. Yadav spoke to Amarendra Yadav of The Rising Nepal on the preparations being made for the local elections, the EC’s expectations and challenges. Excerpts:
With the local elections slated for May 14, the Election Commission (EC) has now less than 80 days to make the necessary preparations for them. Are you confident that the elections will be successfully conducted within the timeframe?
The Election Commission is fully confident that it will conduct the local elections in a free and fair manner within the given timeframe. We are also committed to this end. We had been preparing for the polls even prior to the announcement of the date. Although it is a special kind of election, we will be successful in holding the poll as the EC employees are working with alacrity. When there is full commitment, we are sure to achieve success.
The EC normally needs four months to make the preparations for any type of polls. How much pressure and work load are you feeling as just three months are left for the elections?
We had been asking the government to provide at least four months to carry out the preparations for the polls. Contrary to our expectations, we have definitely less time now. We are experiencing a great deal of work pressure. That’s why the EC officials and staff are working from dawn to dusk. We work even on public holidays. Besides, the officials and staff at the EC Secretariat are very diligent and competent.
On the other hand, the election is the need of the nation. The periodic elections have become a must to implement the constitution. So we are working on a war footing. No election can be accomplished even in four or six months if the election body lacks the willpower and well-organised management.
Apart from the government and the election body, the people and other stakeholders are still not sure if the elections to the local bodies are being held.
No one should be confused about it. I would like to officially inform all the voters and concerned stakeholders that the local level elections are going to be held. The laws related to the local level elections have already been formulated by the parliament. It has also been published in the Nepal Gazette after President Bidya Devi Bhandari approved them. With this development, the Local Body Election Procedure Act-2058 has been automatically rendered null and void, so there is no question with regard to the kind of election to be held.
The report of the Local Level Restructuring Commission is yet to be implemented. The government has not set up any physical and administrative structure and mechanism at the local level. Under these circumstances, how are the election preparations taking place?
To some extent, conducting the preparatory works for the elections under the existing situation is similar to groping in the dark. But the EC is not alone. With the help of the government and other state bodies, the EC will definitely come out of the dark. We are really in urgent need of the restructuring report. Time and again, we have asked the government to provide the report. We will classify the voters’ list on the basis of the report. The report will be the main basis for fixing polling stations and booths. However, the EC is working even without it. More recently, we have been receiving updated voters’ list from our district offices. The report will be a must for us to print the voters’ list after verifying it.
The government has yet to formulate the laws related to the political parties. Besides, to what extent is the government supporting and fulfilling the EC’s demands to carry out the election preparations?
A separate law pertaining to the political parties is a must to conduct the local polls. But it is yet to be formulated. We have drawn the government’s attention to it. But we have the constitution. We also have the Political Parties’ Act-2058 for the management of the political parties. We are working on the political parties-related provisions enshrined in the constitution and the Act. Apart from this, the EC has always some special rights. Thus, there is no reason to be confused about the election preparations in the absence of the law related to the political parties. The government has frequently made commitments to provide the financial, technical and logistic requirements to the EC.
Political parties are an inevitable aspect for successfully conducting any kind of elections. To what extent are the political parties ready for the coming elections?
Our constitution guarantees a multiparty political system with a democratic federal republic setup. Political parties have a vital role in consolidating the political system. Democracy can neither be strengthened nor sustained without the political parties. I think the political parties are ready for the elections. But, this is not enough for the elections. There must be harmony and coordination among the parties for holding the polls in a free, fair and independent manner. But there is some kind of mistrust between them. The government has been continuing talks and dialogue to remove the mistrust and address the dissenting voices. I hope they will reach consensus at a certain point, and all the political parties will take part in the elections.
I would like to inform you that the EC has just updated the list of the political parties for election purpose as per Article 269 of the Constitution. As many as 112 parties have registered with the election body. The EC has also formally urged the political parties to register themselves with the district-based EC offices. The parties have also enthusiastically taken part in the district level registration. All this also shows that they are very keen to participate in the forthcoming polls.
The Madhes-based parties announced protest programmes immediately after the government declared the poll date. How is the EC preparing to peacefully and fairly conduct the polls in the face of such protests?
Conducting free and fair elections is our goal. A peaceful environment is very essential for such elections. There should be a peaceful atmosphere for the voters to exercise their voting rights fearlessly. The government has expressed full commitment to formulating the required law and maintain order. Last Friday, we held discussion with the chiefs of the security agencies. They have guaranteed law and order.
That is the people must have faith in the elections. They should realize that it is their election The next part of the security for the elections demands that the voters be self-motivated. For that, the management aspect must be fair and solid in the course of election preparations. The voters must be attracted to the polling stations on the basis of democratic norms and values rather than on the basis of fear, panic and intimidation.
A few weeks before the announcement of the poll date, the EC had begun election preparations on the instruction of the government. How is the EC carrying out the preparations and what are the important works to be executed by it?
The EC officials and staff are very busy in the poll preparations. The EC is making several decisions every day in the course of the preparations. We have a lot of works to accomplish. We are in the process of procuring a press and paper for the management of the ballot papers. We are also working on finalising the voter’s identity card to recognise actual and genuine voters. We are short of ballot boxes. That’s why we have to procure more ballot boxes. We need transparent ballot boxes made of plastic, which weigh no less than 80 kg. The EC is doing all this homework on a war footing.
You just mentioned the necessity of the ballot boxes. Isn’t the EC using electronic voting machines for the local polls?
Due to time constraint, it is nearly impossible to use electronic voting machines in the coming elections. Our country does not manufacture such machines. It will take a lot of time to procure them from outside the country. However, we are trying to manage some voting machines at some polling stations as a pilot project. Let’s see if we become successful in using the voting machines even if they are in a few polling stations, it will be great experiences for future elections.
What kind of support is the EC expecting from the media to successfully conduct the elections?
The media are a crucial force in the campaign to conduct free and fair elections. The Nepali media has, of course, a great role in holding the local elections in a free, fair and independent manner. It is the media that will have to disseminate the information related to the works and performances of the EC to the people and convey their expectations to the EC and the government. The media outlets from the districts to the centre should support the elections with their professionalism and competence. Furthermore, they should abide by the code of conduct meant for them while conveying news and reports related to the elections. The door of the EC is always open to journalists if they have any questions and queries with regard to the EC and the elections.
Kamini Rajbhandari is managing director of Nepal Telecom (NT), the state-owned telecommunication service provider of Nepal. Rajbhandari has been leading...