Students protest against the dissolution of the parliament in Kathmandu (AFP file photo)
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s electoral commission is preparing for the November midterm elections despite uncertainty about the polls due to pending Supreme Court petitions against dissolution of the House of Representatives, according to a media report.
On the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the lower house for the second time in five months on May 22 and announced snap elections on November 12 and 19.
Prime Minister Oli is currently heading a minority government after losing a vote of confidence in the 275-member House.
The constitutionality of the president’s move is being heard in the Supreme Court, raising the question of whether the elections would be held on the set dates.
But the Nepalese Election Commission said it would start acquiring the necessary materials for the elections next week after the Ministry of Finance approved 7.72 billion Nepalese rupees for the holding of the elections, The Kathmandu Post reported.
The ministry said it approved the commission’s budget to purchase electoral materials and electoral management. This budget, however, does not cover the costs of the security arrangements for the ballot boxes.
“We are planning to issue a tender next week for all the goods necessary for the holding of the elections, except the ballot boxes that we have in sufficient numbers,” said Raj Kumar Shrestha, spokesman for the commission.
Electoral body officials say that although the House dissolution case is being challenged in the Supreme Court, the commission cannot reject the holding of elections.
Currently, the commission is preparing specifications for the acquisition of more than 50 types of goods.
Some of the items that the electoral body plans to acquire are stickers for ballot boxes, identity cards, electoral cards, security stamps, rubber stamps, voting stamps, markers, buffer and ink, polyethylene bag and booth, photocopy paper; glue sticks, staplers, scales and scissors and pens.
“In addition to these materials, we will also acquire medical supplies considering the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Komal Dhamala, an assistant spokesperson for the commission.
The commission is also updating voter lists in different districts.
“More voters will be added for the November elections,” said Dhamala.
According to him, there will be around 22,000 voting centers for the next elections.
Taking into account the health risks due to COVID-19, the commission is also preparing health and safety guidelines to make the electoral process safer.
Some health officials have projected that a third wave of COVID-19 could hit the country around the same time the elections were planned. Electoral body officials admit the risk and are planning various measures so as not to turn the election into a highly publicized event.
“Through the code of conduct, we can limit people’s participation in the assembly of political parties,” said Dhamala.
While the commission makes logistical preparations, the political situation remains fragile for the holding of elections.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is likely to deliver its verdict on the dissolution of the House of Representatives case next week, as both petitioners and defendants have concluded their arguments, myrepublica reported.
Some 30 auto petitions have been filed against the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
Oli has given an ultimatum to the faction led by Madhav Kumar Nepal to withdraw the signatures of the judicial petition filed in the Supreme Court demanding the restoration of the House of Representatives and the appointment of the Speaker of the Congress of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba, as Prime Minister.
Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced new elections on April 30 and May 10 on the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amid a fight for the power within the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (PNC). In February, the high court reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives, a setback for embattled Prime Minister Oli, who was preparing for snap elections.
Oli repeatedly defended his decision to dissolve the House of Representatives, saying that some leaders of his party were trying to form a “parallel government.”