Although political parties are yet to prepare themselves for the coming elections, the Election Commission has already made it clear that it cannot backtrack from its program schedule set for holding the Constituent Assembly election on November 19, 2013.
As the country is passing through uncertainties over whether the election will be held, by publishing the election program, the Election Commission has made a strong statement in favour of the slated elections.
“There is no way other than to publish the election program. Our work is to hold the election on November 19 and we cannot change it,” said Chief Election Commissioner Neelkanth Upreti. “Election is one of the best exercises for democracy and all political parties who believe in democracy will participate in the elections.”
Despite the threat by CPN-Maoist, its 33-party alliance and other parties to disrupt the elections, the poll momentum is gradually building. With the publication of the election program, four major parties have already started preparing their agenda and candidates.
“There must be elections on November 19. We cannot compromise on that as no country can go for a long time being hostage to threat politics,” said Nepali Congress leader Arjun Narshing K.C. “Our party has already started the homework.”
However, CPN-Maoist, Federal Socialist Party and Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum are opposed to the elections without showing flexibility for an agreement on certain fundamental issues. “We have to analyze the reason behind the failure of the Constituent Assembly last time. Then only there will be meaning to hold the CA election,” said Upendra Yadav, leader of Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum Nepal.
Amidst the differences, the two-month election program for proportional representation and First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral systems, unveiled by the EC, starts from September 23.
“We must hold the elections on the scheduled date of November 19. The EC is paying the due seriousness if it can respond to the request of various political parties to provide some additional time for voter registration,” Uprety said.
From registering the political parties to publishing the voters’ list, the Election Commission has already performed some of the major election tasks. Similarly, the government is also working to make the security arrangement for the coming elections. “Election must be held at any cost. There is no other way out,” said Khil Raj Regmi, chairman of the council of minister.
As election observer groups have already started election monitoring, the activities related to the elections are growing. However, the last hour obstacles may appear on things such as printing the ballot paper with 169 different signs.
The EC has registered a total of 12.3 million voters with photo and biometrics as of July 16. This is 5.5 million fewer than the total number of voters registered for the Constituent Assembly (CA) election held in April, 2008. The number of political parties registered with EC has already doubled from that of the previous elections.
Fewer than ninety days before the Constituent Assembly (CA) election, scheduled for November 19, the Election Commission (EC) approved its election program for seats under both the proportional representation and the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral systems.
The two-month long election program would start from September 23. According to EC Spokesperson Bir Bahadur Rai, political parties will file nominations under the proportional electoral system on September 23 while the EC will publish the name list of political parties on September 24. As per the election program, political parties that want to withdraw nominations can do so on September 25 and the commission will publish the final lists of parties and allocate them election symbols on September 26.
The political parties should submit a closed list of their respective candidates to EC on September 27 though they may correct the list from September 28 to October 4. According to the election program, political parties should submit the closed list of their candidates with correction from October 5 to 11. EC will make the closed list of candidates public on October 17. The commission will provide time for claim and objections regarding qualification of nominated candidates from October 18 to 24 while it will probe claim and objections and take decisions on them from October 25 to 31.
As per the election program, EC will publish a notice about removal of candidates from closed list on November 1, while candidates who want to be removed from the closed list can file applications from November 2 to 8. The commission will then inform concerned political parties about removal of such candidates from the closed list on November 9.
As per the program, EC will publish the final list of candidates for proportional election system on November 9, while the voting will be held on November 19.
EC Registers 119 Parties
The EC has registered 23 more parties for the upcoming CA polls. The constitutional body also allocated election symbols to these parties. The number of registered political parties has now reached 119. The constitutional body is yet to decide the fate of 20 other political parties that have also applied for registration for the November election.
Asked about the fate of the 20 parties, Uprety said, “They are under the process of registration,” adding, “Some parties are yet to choose election symbols while there others that do not fulfill the criteria for registration.
Call For 33 % Women Representation
As the election program came out, representatives from various women organizations, including the Inter Party Women Network (IPWN), have pressed the top leaders of political parties to ensure at least 33 per cent representation of women in the to-be-elected Constituent Assembly (CA). After failing to pursue their cause in their own party, women leaders met the coordinator of High Level Political Committee (HLPC) and UPCN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and top leaders from member parties of the HLPC -- UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and United Madhesi Democratic Front (UDMF). They also submitted their demands.
At a time when big four parties are making efforts to reduce the number of women, the women rights groups stepped up their campaign. “As per the electoral laws, it is certain that the representation of women in the new CA would be reduced to 23 percent. The previous CA had ensured 33 percent women representation,” said CPN-UML leader Radha Gyawali, who is also the coordinator of IPWN. “Leaders have promised not to reduce women representation. We will not withdraw our movement without ensuring 33 percent representation of women in the new CA.”
Although political uncertainty remains, the Election Commission has shown the determination to hold the elections on November 19. This is a good sign in the midst of uncertainties.