Citizen’s Appeal on Second Phase of Local Elections

Ten members of the civil society today released the following appeal related to the second phase of local elections, scheduled for 14 June 2017. 

Statement 

1. We are heartened that first phase of local-level elections have been conducted on 14 May 2017 in Provinces 3, 4 and 6 with a high level of voter participation. This is an important first step towards the implementation of the Constitution.

2. In this context, when the dates for both phases of elections have been announced and the first phase of elections have been completed, no party should violate the electoral Code of Conduct by making policy or programmatic decisions that will affect the second phase. Because the proposed constitutional amendment, announcement of new programs, and changing of laws will impact voters, these activities should be deferred.

3. It is not appropriate to reorganize the numbers and boundaries of municipalities and village units while the elections for representatives from these units are on-going, for the following reasons:

A. The right to reorganize the numbers and boundaries does not lie with Nepal Government.

B. There is no legal provision in place regarding redrafting these numbers and boundaries.

C. According to Article 5 of the relevant 2016 law, the Nepal Government cannot change the numbers and boundaries of municipalities and village units without the recommendation of two thirds of the Village or Municipal Assemblies, and such changes have to be made at least one year before the relevant elections. It is therefore against the law to make the proposed changes without recommendation from the Village or Municipal Assemblies, that too only a few days before elections.

D. After elections have been conducted in three provinces under one set of parameters, it neither practical nor equitable to conduct elections in the remaining provinces of the same country using a separate set of parameters. 

E. It is not in the benefit of the people of Madhes to have a larger number of local government units, as the fragmentation will lead to loss of economy of scale in relation to infrastructure and services. This viewpoint is based on practical considerations and research-based evidence. 

4. We believe, for the following reasons, that a constitutional amendment removing mayors and deputy mayors of local units being part of the electoral college electing members to National Assembly (Upper House) would undermine a provisions that ensures collaboration and coexistence among the local, provincial and national levels of government: 

A. At a time when many mayors and deputy mayors of local entities have already been elected by the people under the provision empowering these representatives to be part of the electoral college electing members to the National Assembly, it is against the spirit of democracy to peremptorily take away this responsibility. 

B. Even under the centralized system after 1990, local government representatives had the right to choose one-fourth of the National Assembly members. Wresting the right of local representatives to elect members to the National Assembly goes against the core values of federalism, self-governance and popular sovereignty. 

5. With the new Constitution having empowered the local level to provide inclusive governance, and people’s sovereignty having already been practiced during the first phase of elections, we look to goodwill and constructive cooperation of the international community for the success of Nepal’s exercise in effective local government. 

Signatories: 
Krishna Prasad Sapkota, Former Chairperson, National Federation of DDCs 
Neelkantha Uprety, Former Chief Election Commissioner 
Nilambar Acharya, Former Chair, Constitutional Committee, Constituent Assembly 
Balananda Poudel, Chair, Local Bodies Restructuring Commission 
Mukti Rijal, Local Self-Governance Expert 
Bipin Adhikari, Constitutional Expert 
Surya Prasad Shrestha, Former Chief Election Commissioner 
Shyam Bhurtel, Local Self-Governance Expert 
Hikmat Bista, Local Self-Governance Expert 
Kanak Mani Dixit, Senior Journalist 

(Translated from Nepali)