Nepal Today

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

british aid


Kathmandu, 11 July: United Kingdom will increase its annual aid
contribution to Nepal from 55 to 105 British million pound sterling.
This was conveyed to Finance Minister Shanker Koirala Wednesday by
A senior British diplomat  at its embassy in the Nepali capital.
United Kingdom has pushed for a complete budget in the coming fiscal



Chief Election Commissioner from 1985 to 1993, Surya Prasad Shrestha has the experience of conducting election of Rastriya Panchayat as well as the 1991 parliamentary election. Shrestha is currently the Chairperson of National Election Observation Committee, a non-government election watchdog. He has been closely following the work of the Constituency Delineation Commission (CDC) which was formed on June 13 to redraw electoral constituencies. With the political parties divided over the basis of constituency delineation, thus hindering CDC’s work, Mahabir Paudyal sat down with Shrestha to discuss CDC’s functioning, constituency delineation and other election related issues.

How do you evaluate CDC’s work so far?
It has certainly started its work. But I believe the Terms of Reference (ToR) given to CDC has narrowed its scope. This is the reason they have not been able to work in full swing. Besides, CDC employees were made to go through a dispiriting experience. They were given appointment letters late and there was unnecessary controversy regarding who should administer them the oath of secrecy.

How do you see the delay?

These are the times when the hallowed principle of separation of powers has been violated. The boundaries of constitutional bodies are fuzzy, creating confusion over the roles of executive and judicial heads. I believe the issue of who should administer oath to CDC members was the outcome of the same confusion. But there should have been no such confusion. Even during the Panchayat days, the Chief Justice administered the oath of secrecy to CDC members. It was as simple as that. They wasted 12 precious days by delaying oath taking.

CDC is to submit its report to the government by July 25. How confident are you that it will be able to do so?
Although they have limited TOR, it is their obligation to come up with some kind of a recommendation. There is no other way. One good thing about this CDC is that its members don’t have to start from the scratch. It is third such Commission so its members can review the practices of earlier two commissions. The CDC should look into criteria adopted by their predecessors in determining electoral constituencies. There are many precedents and lessons to draw from.

Political parties are sharply divided over whether constituencies should be delineated based on census figures or other factors. What is your take?
The basic principle of election system is one-man-one-vote by secret ballot and adult franchise. These principles have been included in human rights chapter of the UN too. So if the political parties agree on population basis, it would be more agreeable and scientific. Since representation is directly concerned with the people, population would be the ideal basis. But in our context, we cannot ignore relation between population mobility and geography. If we completely ignore geography, some of the Himalayan districts will have zero representation as they are so thinly populated. This would be a big drawback for hill communities. Meanwhile, Madhesis are pushing to make population the chief criterion. There is nothing wrong in it but if population alone is taken as the basis, people living in the hills and mountains will be at a disadvantage. CDC must take into account other factors, geography in particular.

You have served as the Chief Election Commissioner twice. How do you evaluate the functioning of Election Commission today?
There are many differences between EC’s functioning then and now. When I served as the CEC, things like federalism, republic and inclusion were unheard of. The current Election Commission has added responsibility because it is conducting CA election, not national Panchayat election or parliamentary elections. It is going to conduct polls at a time political polarization is at an all time high. These factors have obviously affected EC’s functioning. The major challenge for this Commission is to hold polls in a manner acceptable to all.

Do you believe there is political intervention in the functioning of Election Commission today?
I was chief commissioner under both Panchayat and multiparty parliamentary systems. The political parties never interfered in our business. They never dictated terms, like they are doing today. Of course, we would consult them and they would give us inputs but veteran leaders like Girija Prasad Koirala, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Manamohan Adhikari never imposed their views. They never interfered with EC’s business; they instead accepted whatever decision we made. It seems to be the other way around nowadays.

How are political parties interfering with EC’s functioning now?
Not directly. But they are trying to do so through other means. The political parties pass their agendas to the government. The government drafts ordinance on the basis of parties’ proposals, gets it endorsed by the president and imposes the provisions on the EC. The EC has to implement government decision, whether it is fair or not. Neither the political parties nor the government takes EC’s recommendation seriously. In fact, they have rejected all important EC recommendations. Take threshold, size of the CA, and the provision of not allowing convicted persons to face the polls. Is not this an example of the parties controlling the EC?

You don’t believe the Election Commission will be able to function independently?
It has not been long since the EC started working with its new set of office bearers, but even in this short timeframe it has become clear that it won’t be able to work independently. But rest assured: if the EC, political parties or the government tries to influence election outcome in any undesirable manner, independent groups like National Election Observation Committee will expose their nefarious intent. We are closely following developments.

EC has started updating voter rolls without requiring likely voters to produce citizenship cards. What is your take on this?
Look, there are fundamental norms to preserve the sanctity of the polls, both nationally and internationally. Updating voter roll without citizenship is violation of that sanctity. After all, Supreme Court itself had made citizenship mandatory. Only Nepali citizens should be allowed to vote and the identity of any Nepali citizen is established by his or her citizenship. Now if you make the citizenship requirement lax, it can only benefit foreign forces. Another interesting fact is that political parties make citizenship distribution lax only on election eve. The Election Commission should stop updating voter rolls without citizenships. EC cannot work as “yes man” of political parties.

Are you hopeful that the EC will be able to hold free and fair polls?
It must. But for this it must be able to cure the “yes man” syndrome. It must ensure that every Nepali citizen gets to vote, but not a single foreigner. The Commission should be able to resist unfair political interventions, properly manage its staff and logistics and most importantly, to convince people that it will conduct election in free and fair manner.


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