Nepal Today

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Kathmandu, 16 Aug.: Nepal China bilateral consultations are being held
in Beijing 244 to 29 August.
New Foreign Secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa will lead the Nepali team.
Kathmandu, 16 Aug.: Concerned that top political leaders’ requests for development aid during foreign junkets could influence the elections, the Election Commission’s (EC) committee monitoring the poll code of conduct has issued a strong directive, barring leaders from making such ‘unnecessary’ trips abroad, Bhadra Sharma. Kamal Rak SIgdel write in The Kathmandu Post.. .
The directive, which the EC plans to circulate publicly on Thursday, follows strong public criticism, including individual complaints the EC received, over a series of visits made by leaders to neighbouring countries ahead of the November 19 polls, Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav told the Post.
The committee, for example, has taken note of CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal’s July 25-30 visit to India when he requested speeding up the construction of the Kathmandu-Nijgad fast track road, among other development projects. The project was signed when the UML leader led the government in 2010 and the road touches his constituency in the Tarai.
Nepal had also sought speeding up work on the Mahakali (Pancheshwor) Project and the Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line, and urged concrete steps to take ahead the Bagmati Integrated Development Project (a comprehensive plan to clean the Bagmati river and its tributaries in the Kathmandu valley) under Indian assistance.
Similarly, during his June 9-14 visit to India, NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba (whose support base is the Far West) had requested construction of the Banbasa bridge over the Mahakali river, while NC President Sushil Koirala had requested India to help Nepal control floods in the Rapti river and address problems caused to the Nepali side by the Laxmanpur dam in Banke (Koirala’s home constituency).
In April, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had requested Indian support in hydropower projects and the development of Lumbini.
UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal, sources say, is also planning to go to India before the elections.
Given this trend, the EC committee on Wednesday concluded that “a noticeable number of leaders visiting foreign countries and returning with assurances of development aid for projects in their constituencies” was a serious issue to be observed and monitored. “After our internal study, we decided to impose a ban on leaders’ unnecessary foreign visits,” said Commissioner Yadav, also the head of the committee.
Poll observers have also said that such visits could be considered a breach of the election code.
“Given Nepal’s aid dependence, it does matter if party leaders go to neighbouring countries before the elections and request assistance for some mega projects in their constituencies,” said Prof Kapil Shrestha, co-chairman of the National Election Observation Committee (NEOC). “This could be intended to affect the elections.”
Though the poll code bars such foreign visits, EC officials said this new decision was needed to make its enforcement stricter. This, however, does not stop leaders from making “essential” visits to any foreign country, provided that the trips do not include appeals for development aid, the EC said.
While party leaders defend their visits as regular ones and, therefore, their requests for development projects should be taken normally, observers argue that leaders have been very selective in requesting aid packages as they focused on their own constituencies.
“There is no question of violating the election code when any political leader visits a foreign country,” said NC leader Arjun Narsingh KC. “Leaders do talk about projects of national interests during their visit to foreign countries and if those fall within their constituencies it should not be a big issue.”
Prof Shrestha, however begs to differ. “Given the timing of the foreign junkets and the pattern of demands they have put forward, it appears very much clear that this may have some influence in the elections,” he said. “For example, if Koirala was worried about the flood victims, he could have raised the issues of several other river banks that have been causing similar problems in the Nepali side.”
EC officials said Wednesday’s decision also bars representatives of foreign diplomatic missions from visiting districts without prior consent from the commission. “We are inviting foreign diplomats to the office to convey our message concerning election sensitivities they should maintain,” said Yadav. The EC enforced the code of conduct on July 22, barring in effect all kinds of activities that could adversely affect the polls.
Voter registration set to reopen
KATHMANDU: The EC is preparing to reopen voter registration for a week beginning August 17. "Acting on the request of the political parties, we are all set to resume voter registration for a week," Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said.
According to him, the registration process will resume in all the 75 district election offices. The Commission is waiting for a political consent to resume the process, he said.  nnnn


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