The Election Commission (EC) has expedited preparations for elections of local governments whose tenure expires on May 19. Along with the preparations, the commission is also busy exploring ways to reform the electoral process and formulating an integrated election law. In this connection, Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked to Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya.
How are the preparations for local levels going?
On December 24, we met the prime minister and proposed April 27 as a date for local level polls. Even if the date is yet to be finalized, the commission is ready to conduct elections before the expiry of the terms of the 36,000 local representatives on May 19. As of now, we are busy updating voter lists and are in consultation with officials of the finance ministry, security departments, and other concerned bodies.
Are there plans to use the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the upcoming elections?
The commission is ready to and in favor of using the EVM system, but it is not possible without political consensus. The EC has held talks with them several times but to no avail. Also, to use the EVMs, we have to have mass demo sessions, at least a year before the announcement of election dates. So there is no chance of using EVMs for local level elections, but we still can do it for elections of federal and provincial parliaments, but again, only if there is political consensus.
How will this election cycle differ from previous ones?
The election process and voting system have not changed from the previous time, but we are planning to use new technology for surveillance so that elections are more free, fair and peaceful. But primarily, the commission is focusing on civic education, which includes educating the public on the importance of their votes, election-time etiquettes, etc.
What is the progress on a single ‘integrated law’ for all levels of elections?
A few days earlier, the government agreed on the principle of an ‘integrated law’. We will now create a taskforce to prepare related Acts. In two months, we will present the integrated law to the government, which in turn will present it in parliament.
How is the commission planning to curtail excess campaign spending this time?
This time, we are working on an Act that will make it mandatory for candidates to disclose their property details so that the EC can monitor the excesses in their election promotional campaigns. We have also decentralized powers and authorized local election committees to check for adherence to election code of conduct. We appeal to everyone to report any misconduct as only with collective effort can we hold free and fair polls.