Nepal Votes 2022: As election date nears, fears, worries and doubts about fair polls

"Voters are being dictated. They are being threatened to vote for certain parties in coalition. People's free will is not being respected."

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Experts and intellectuals, including the former officials of the Election Commission, have expressed concerns about the possible fallout of the system as the political parties are going to the federal House of Representatives and provincial assembly polls on November 20.

In an interaction on ‘Fair Election in Parliamentary System’ held in the capital on Wednesday, experts have expressed their concerns over the conduct of the political actors ahead of the elections. “We have a political force which said in the past that it did not believe in the parliamentary system and which still says it does not believe in the parliamentary system going to the polls this November. What do we expect from such a force?” said Nilambar Acharya, a former ambassador of Nepal to India, in the program organized by Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial Trust.

He said that attempts are being made to unduly influence the voters. “When questions are raised about such conduct often they tell us things were no different back in the past either. There is a mindset that things were bad in the past and there is nothing wrong in continuing with bad practices,” said Acharya. “Such a mindset is a major hurdle to electoral reforms.”

Acharya took the government to task for taking major decisions ahead of the elections. “A government becomes caretaker after the poll dates are announced. But this government is taking important decisions as if it were a full-fledged government,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the state to ensure fair and free elections. Besides, the election commission also has a major role to ensure that the election code of conduct is strictly implemented.”

Surya Prasad Shrestha, a former chief election commissioner, expressed worries that the whole system is being undermined by the political parties. “Parliamentary system has been distorted for the first time in Nepali history,” said Shrestha. “Voters are being dictated. They are being threatened to vote for certain parties in the coalition.  People’s free will is not being respected,” he said. “The way political parties are conducting themselves, there is a clear sign of political instability coming in the days to come.” He said that civil society, media, and the election commission should closely watch whether the parties are complying with the election code of conduct.

Neil Kantha Uprety, another former chief election commissioner, said that the political parties are pressuring the voters. “Voters have not been left free and the political parties are violating the code of conduct made by the election commission,” said Uprety.

Dinesh Tripathi, a senior lawyer and advocate, said that political parties have turned democracy into a system that “buys people’s votes.” “Parties look like they are selling election tickets in the black market.  People are not being given choices. They are being dictated to. The irony today is that a member of one party seems to be contesting an election from another party. Which party does such a candidate actually belong to? How should we understand this?” According to Tripathi, alliance politics has made the election look like a match-fixing game.

On the occasion, rights activist Renu Rajbhandari called on the civil society and media to expose the crime-accused candidates contesting the upcoming polls and raise awareness among the voters not to vote for such candidates.