ApEx Explainer | How and when will the three-tier elections be held?

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

ApEx Explainer | How and when will the three-tier elections be held?

If things go as planned, local elections will take place first, to be followed by provincial and federal elections. Though the exact dates are yet to be finalized, sooner or later, the country will head to elections

The terms of the federal parliament, provincial assemblies, as well as the local governments expire next year. Growing debates in political circles on a possible ‘electoral alliance’ and ‘early elections’ of the House of Representatives (HoR) show that parties are already in an election-mode. They have started nationwide campaigns to strengthen their organizations, targeting the upcoming three-tier elections.

If things go as planned, local elections will take place first, to be followed by provincial and federal elections. Though the exact dates are yet to be finalized, sooner or later, the country will head to elections. Here is an explainer on how local, provincial and federal elections will take place.

Who declares the date of local-level elections?

As per Local Election Act 2017, the government is mandated to announce the date for local elections in consultation with the Election Commission. The government can choose to hold elections in multiple phases if they cannot be held in a single phase. At the local level, the first-past-the-post (FPTP) election model is applied for holding elections.  

How long is the tenure of local elected bodies?

The tenure of the village and municipal assemblies is five years. Article 225 of the constitution says: “The term of a Village Assembly and a Municipal Assembly shall be of five years from the date of the election. Another Village Assembly and Municipal Assembly shall be elected not later than six months of the expiration of such a term.”

The first local elections under the new constitution were conducted in 2017 in three phases (on May 14, June 28, and September 18). According to election experts, if there are to be multi-phase elections, the date for the first phase would determine the tenure of local bodies. So, ideally, the elections for local governments must take place within May-June next year. Even if parties choose to hold local level elections six months after their current term expires, local elections must take place by next August at the latest.

What about elections of provincial assemblies?

The provincial assemblies are unicameral and the numbers of provincial lawmakers vary from province to province. Unless dissolved earlier pursuant to the constitution, the term of the provincial assemblies is five years. Their term may be extended for a period not exceeding one year in cases where a proclamation or order of the state of emergency is in effect. As provincial assembly elections were held simultaneously with the federal elections in 2017, their tenure also expires in 2022. Under the FPTP component, twice as many members are elected to provincial assemblies as are elected to the federal House of Representative. 60 percent provincial assembly seats are filled through FPTP elections and 40 percent through PR elections. 

Also read: Delhi undecided as Deuba seeks its blessings 

And when are the federal parliament elections?

The House of Representatives and the National Assembly make up the Federal Parliament. On the term of the HoR, Article 85 of the constitution says, “Unless dissolved earlier, the term of the House of Representatives shall be of five years.” The previous federal and provincial elections took place in two phases in November and December 2017. So, the tenure of the incumbent parliament will be valid till December 2022, if the parliament is not dissolved earlier. After the completion of the five-year term, the federal parliament will get dissolved. As the constitution has not envisioned a parliamentary vacuum of over six months, elections for the federal parliament will have to take place within six months of December 2022.

Who declares the date for elections to the federal House of Representatives?

The government announces the date of the elections to the House of Representation in consultation with the Election Commission. The government can hold elections in multiple phases citing logistical and security issues. But the government must consult the commission before announcing federal elections.

What about the National Assembly?

The National Assembly is a permanent House that consists of 59 members, each with a six-year term. The term of office of one-third of the members of the National Assembly expires every two years. The election of NA will take place after the elections of local, provincial, and federal levels.

Are there any chances that elections to the parliament, provincial and local governments will take place simultaneously?

There is an ongoing debate on the possibility of holding simultaneous elections. However, parties are yet to begin deliberation over such a proposal. To conduct simultaneous elections, the law needs to be changed. For one, simultaneous elections will reduce electoral costs. Former Election Commission Commissioner Dolakh Bahadur Gurung says simultaneous elections are a good idea if all parties are on the same page. Towards this end, Gurung says legal arrangements must be accompanied by a huge exercise in arranging logistics.

Also read: Nepal’s decennial census needs a rethink

Should the Election Commission be allowed to announce the date of elections?

Right now only the government holds the right to announce the dates for elections. For a long time, the Election Commission has been making a case for its right to do so. According to former commissioner Gurung, giving the commission such a mandate will ensure timely elections. As the government has the right to announce dates, the ruling parties right now tend to declare elections as per their convenience.

Are there any chances of a change in our electoral system?

In the last election, a mixed electoral system—first-past-the-post and proportional representation (PR)—was adopted. But debate has already begun about changing it. Ruling coalition partner CPN (Maoist) has proposed a completely proportional election system. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been saying that elections are becoming too costly and a complete PR system is the only solution. The Maoist party also fears losing elections if the FPTP component is high. In any case, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML are unlikely to accept such a proposal.

Are there any chances of early elections?

There are divergent views among political parties on early elections. The main opposition CPN-UML is in favor because it wants to justify KP Oli’s House dissolution and call for elections.

Inside Nepali Congress, there are strong voices in favor of early elections for the federal parliament. NC leaders believe that if local elections are held first, federal elections could be affected because of the ensuing factional feuds and chances of intra-party betrayal. Local-level leaders who lose elections are unlikely to support rival-faction candidates in federal elections. However, coalition partners CPN (Maoist) and CPN (Unified Samajwadi) led by Madhav Kumar Nepal are against early elections as they are both in party-building phase.