Nepal’s electoral body finds it difficult to implement Election Code of Conduct

काठमाण्डु टुडे २०७० भदौ २ गते १८:२७ मा प्रकाशित

KATHMANDU, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) — In order to make the upcoming second Constituent Assembly elections scheduled in November free, fair and credible, the Election Commission on July 22 issued an Election Code of Conduct.

However, the Commission, which is the sole constitutional authority to conduct election in the country, finds it difficult to implement the code’s provisions among the country’s politicians.

For instance, Nepal’s last monarch Gyanendra Shah visited the flood-affected areas of far-west Nepal at the end of July. Shah distributed relief material and made contact with locals in various districts.

Nepal’s media feared that the move would help a pro-monarchy party known as RPP-N get votes in the election.

However, before the media could be aware of what the Shah has done, the former monarch had already done his part of the election campaign, disguised as an ‘aid package’ to the flood and landslide victims.

“It is really challenging to maintain the Code of Conduct. All stakeholders have to understand that we alone cannot maintain election-related discipline without their help,” the Commission’s spokesperson Bir Bahadur Rai told Xinhua on Sunday.

What makes it more difficult for the Commission to strictly enforce the Code is that some of the country’s top politicians have approached foreign countries to provide them with the wherewithal for projects which are obviously in aid of their campaign.

This violation of Code of Conduct was noticed by the Commission during the visits of key Nepalese leaders to foreign countries and in particular, to India.

Nepal’s former prime minister and senior leader of Congress party, Sher Bahadur Deuba, recently visited India at the invitation of the Indian government.

During his visit, apart from discussing other issues, Deuba urged the Indian government to help construct Banbasa Bridge on Mahakali River in far-west Nepal, where Deuba’s electoral constituency is located.

Congress party president, Sushil Koirala, too, during his India visit, urged the Indian side to assist Nepal in controlling the flooding from Rapti River that flows through Koirala’s electoral constituency in Banke district in mid-west Nepal.

Nepal’s UCPN-Maoist chairperson and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda was not an exception. During his recent trip to the southern neighbor, he requested India to help develop hydro-power projects in hilly areas, which are generally considered the strongholds of his party.

The latest in the series of similar incidents involved CPNUML senior leader and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. During his India visit, Nepal urged concerned Indian authorities to build Kathmandu-Nijgadh highway that connects his electoral constituency in Rautahat district in central Terai plain.

“Asking for aid with neighboring countries for the political leaders’ electoral constituencies at the time of election is a sheer violation of the election Code of Conduct,” observed Ayodhi Prasad Yadav, one of the four Election Commissioners of Nepal.

“It’s a serious issue and does not speak well of politicians running for public office,” Yadav added.

In response to such a breach, the Commission had to publicly warn political party leaders to abide by the rules cited in the Code of Conduct.

“Our attention has been drawn towards the visits made by our leaders to foreign countries. We are highly concerned that the expressions made by the leaders during their trips were against the spirit of making the forthcoming election free and fair,” said a statement issued by the Commission.

Commission Spokesperson Rai lamented that the constitutional electoral body has no authority to bar leaders from visiting foreign countries even during campaign period. All that the Commission can do is to persuade the candidates to be more prudent in their acts.

“Our minimum request is that the leaders at least respect the Code of Conduct and do not seek any help or funds that would benefit their constituencies, as it may influence the people’s opinion when they cast their votes,” Rai said.

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