The Election Commission of Nepal reluctantly agreed to honour a Supreme Court order to print separate ballot papers for provincial and federal legislatures. There are, however, major lacunae left to be addressed which make elections scheduled on November 26 and December 7 uncertain. Following the Supreme Court disapproval, the EC undertook in the court that it would now have ballot papers for federal and provincial legislatures on separate sheets of papers instead of two sides of one single sheet. The move, however, addresses the issue of ballot papers partially.
Nepal has adopted a mixed electoral system to elect federal parliament – 165 to be elected directly and 110 under the proportional representative system – as well as seven provincial legislature. While the EC has agreed to have separate ballot papers for the direct polls, it is going ahead with its earlier decision to have the ballot papers under the proportional representation system on the two sides of the same sheet of paper. Although, the same law makes it mandatory to have separate ballot papers both for the FPTP and the PR system for federal and provincial bodies.
The Supreme Court is likely to be flooded with public interest litigations seeking that these anomalies be addressed. EC’s initial cold response to suggestion by the SC for separate ballot papers has earned visible public suspicion about its fairness and impartiality, especially after the commission initially said ballot papers were not possible because of the time constraints. EC’s reluctance followed a warning from the Left Alliance that it should not honour SC verdict if that would hamper the election schedule.
The EC is also under pressure to annul its decision depriving about 600,000 government employees including police, army, para military and civil servants of their voting rights for the first time. “The government can not take away any citizen’s right to vote and we will seek judicial intervention,” said senior advocate Juktijung Lamichhane.