With local elections in Nepal just round the corner, necessary preparations for them are being made. The Election Commission (EC) has expedited its preparatory work to conduct the local polls in a free, fair and transparent manner. The nation is going to the second local elections on May 13 this year following the introduction of the federal system of governance. The local polls will elect representatives in all the 753 local levels (six metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 276 municipalities and 460 rural municipalities). The election body has already initiated the process of getting the ballot papers printed. It has also fixed polling centres nationwide. The political parties have also remained busy drafting their election manifestoes, selecting candidates and canvassing for the upcoming polls. It is needless to mention that free and fair polls are the foundation of democracy. The local polls hold a lot of significance in terms of consolidating the grassroots democracy.
The code of conduct for the local polls has come into effect since Friday midnight. The EC has implemented the election code with an objective of conducting the polls in a free and fearless environment. The government is facilitating the election body to accomplish this important responsibility in a successful manner. The poll code is now applicable to the government, its ministers, pubic institutions, local bodies, constitutional bodies, political parties, candidates, election observers, those holding public positions, media outlets, I/NGOs, civil servants and security agencies. The EC has recognised a total of 79 political parties for the forthcoming local polls. The parties have already expressed their commitment to fully abide by the laws and election code of conduct.
As the key stakeholders, the political parties are required to follow the Constitution of Nepal, Election Commission Act-2017, Political Parties-related Act-2017, Election (Crime and Punishment) Act-2017, Local Level Election Act-2017 and Election Code of Conduct-2022 with honesty. The EC’s plan to hold the elections in a free and credible atmosphere will materialise only when all the political forces translate their commitment into practice. With the enforcement of the poll code, the government cannot appoint, promote, transfer or depute any of its employees and security personnel. However, the government can carry out election-related works. The election code also does not allow government officials and employees to travel overseas without the EC’s permission. Besides, the government is barred from introducing or implementing programmes other than those approved in its annual budget.
With the implementation of this code, the government can neither approve new policies, plans and programmes nor can it lay the foundation stone for and inaugurate any new project. The poll code also stops the government from transferring budget to carry out survey and study of any project. The EC seems to be quite serious about enforcing the election code of conduct in a more effective manner so as to ensure fair polls. As per Article 36 of Chapter 9 of the election code of conduct, local representatives are required to resign before filing nominations seeking re-lection. But respecting the Supreme Court’s recent interlocutory interim order, the EC has decided not to enforce this rule for now. But the candidates should register their candidacies with a letter saying that s/he had not held any lucrative position to be remunerated from the state’s funds. When the election code and other norms are strictly followed, the nation will witness fair elections that alone can help strengthen local government institutions.