Nepal is heated up with election helter-skelter at present. The narrowest of alleys are ringing with the pleadings for votes and campaigns for obvious wins. Regular Elections is the backbone of any democratic nation. People choose their representatives to the higher position of governance with their free will.
Amidst all this chaos, it becomes important to know what perspectives citizens hold regarding the election phenomenon. Are people really aware of how this contributes to their wellbeing and livelihood? Do they know what parameters to use to judge the candidates and how? Are they aware of the procedures? How many eligible citizens are actually voting?
Phases of Election
Nepal is a federal democratic republic that follows a multi-party parliamentary system of governance. The state politics is divided into three tiers: federal, provincial and local. After the new constitution was formed for the first time by the Constituent Assembly in 2015, the Assembly itself was converted into legislative parliament until the first general elections of the new federal republic of Nepal held in two phases in the months of November and December of 2017.
The second local level election was recently held in May of 2022. That was for electing chairpersons and vice chairpersons of village executive and mayors and deputy mayors of municipal executive. Nepal currently has six metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 276 municipalities, and 460 rural municipalities. Along with it, ward committee members were also simultaneously elected.
Each of the seven provinces have a separate unicameral legislature but the singular federal parliament is made up of bicameral legislature comprising of House of Representative in the lower level and national assembly in the upper level. The upcoming election is for selecting legislative members for state and federal assemblies. The citizens are to cast four votes each: two for federal House of Representative and other two for their respective State Assembly.
The Election Commission is the main constitutional organ that watches after the election procedures in Nepal. It is provisioned under articles 245, 246, 247 of the present constitution of Nepal. The commission further delegates its monitoring and regulating duties to its district and provincial branches. The Chief Election Commissioner is also authorised to employ government officials under certain specified conditions.
Nepali legislation in place for regulating the election process, political parties, politicians, candidates and the regulatory authorities themselves are:
- Election Commission Act, 2073
- Election Code of Conduct, 2078
- Electoral Roll Act, 2073
- Election (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2073
- Political Party Registration Act, 2065
- Local Level Election Act, 2073
- Act Relating to Political Parties, 2073
There are several other laws and by-laws to hold the election together.
Nepal has adopted three kinds of election processes. The local level elections employ a single method of first past the post system which is also called the direct method. House of representatives at the federation and state assemblies employ first past the post and proportional representation system combinedly and parallelly. Single transferable vote system is then used by the members of elected House of Representative members for electing the members of the National Assembly.
The 275 member House of Representative is composed of 165 directly elected members- one from each of 165 constituencies and 110 elected through proportional representation. Composition of the State Assemblies is not concrete as such. It differs according to the population size of every province.
Any Nepali who has attained the age of 18 years and is registered as a voter under voter’s list is eligible to use their voting right. The District Election Office or the District Administration Office undertakes the responsibility of registering you as a voter if you submit to them a copy of your citizenship and a photo. There is a provision of taking your photo directly during the registration as well. But the time allocated for voter registration is limited as specified by the Election Commission. The registration period closes as soon as a new election is announced.
The current election being conducted on 4th of Mangsir which was announced as the ‘Election Day’ requires the citizen of Nepal enlisted in the voter’s list to reach their respective voting booths with either their voting card or a copy of their citizenship or passport. There are four voting polls at each booth. The voter goes at each poll, collects the ballot paper, puts a ‘swastik’ stamp on the symbol of their respective candidates for the direct method and of respective parties for the proportional representation method and lastly folds each of the papers to drop inside the ballot box after every poll. After this process is complete, they are marked with blue ink on one of their fingernails. Hereby, the election process concludes.
The Election Code of Conduct 2078 talks about further requirements for a citizen’s eligibility to vote.
Elections require the element of transparency and fairness for the right leaders to be voted to the top. The current practice of making this system a puppet in a few hands has defeated its purpose of reforming the nation in an anti-anarchical structure. The negative influences like corruption, mindless lobbying for political leaders by the youth, bribery relating to high positions post-win and a general lack of public’s conscience for calculative judgement seem to be the reasons why elections have merely been a ploy for the power-hungry people rather than a principal factor to ensure democracy. It has become a dire need for the citizens of any democracy-bestowed nation to be self-aware and aware of the political situations of their country while exercising their right to vote.