What goes on in Nepal’s elections

Nepal’s Election Commission is tasked with conducting free and fair elections and oversees every aspect of it from voter registration, and campaign compliance, to the actual voting and counting process. 

To ensure a smooth election, election observers are assigned at polling booths across the country to closely monitor voting.

Here are some of my observations of the local level election in Kaski’s Machapuchre Rural Municipality as compared to the 2013 Constitution Assembly election as well as the 2017 local, provincial, and federal elections.

Read more: Nepal’s alt-right falls off the map, Nishnu Thing

Candidate registration

On the single day allocated for candidate registration in 2017, election officials were inundated by those registering  their candidates for the local polls at election institutions across the country. Two days were assigned for registration during this election — but it made little difference.

While independent candidates mostly got registered in Kaski on the first day on 24 April, candidates of Nepal’s mainstream political parties flocked together to the election offices at the last moment during the second day, and they were registering till well into the night, overwhelming officials. 

Election advertising

By 2017, traditional advertising methods like posters, street-art, and graffiti had gone down significantly and the use of social media by candidates had risen exponentially. Meanwhile, there was notable use of election merchandising, mainly clothing.

The internet played an even bigger role in advertising in 2022, along with door-to-door campaigns and election rallies. And although pamphlets were distributed during both small and large scale campaigning, traditional forms of advertising were nearly obsolete, including merchandising. 

The 2013 CA elections saw many instances of candidates not being allowed to campaign, and there were clashes. Some candidates were barred from campaigning in 2022, and there were cases of contenders being pressured to withdraw their candidacy by the party leadership, as well as of big parties dissuading smaller parties and independent candidates from contesting.

Code of Conduct

The irony of elections in Nepal is that the very political parties that have expressed their commitment to abide by the election code of conduct continue to violate it, with electoral institutions bearing silent witness.

Indeed, the Election Office did not prioritise let alone pay attention to election code violations unless complaints were made specifically. And even then, the attention was limited to asking concerned parties for clarification without any clear end to code violations.

In the days leading up to the election, Pokhara’s then mayor attended the inauguration of a newly-constructed bridge— election slogans blaring from the loudspeaker of his vehicle—in a blatant attempt to sway voters.

The Election Officer sought a clarification, but the mayor was let off with  a warning after he conveyed that he had simply gone to the site to observe the bridge, not inaugurate it.  

Voter list and ID

Numerous errors in the voter roll meant that the exact turnout could not be ascertained from the list. There were mistakes in personal details, including names and dates of birth. Adult voters were found missing from the list, while duplicated names as well as names of the deceased were retained. Conducting elections on the basis of flawed voter lists is a challenging task for polling officials. However voters cannot be deprived of their rights due to auch shortcomings.

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