Feature Article

Nepal’s political parties discuss electoral justice reform

Posted: 2010-12-02

Nepal’s political parties discuss electoral justice reform
Photo ©: Leena Rikkilä Tamang

Nepal is currently reforming its electoral dispute resolution (EDR) mechanism as part of the development of its new electoral law. The aim is to have these arrangements included in the new constitution which is expected to be promulgated by May 2011, after which parliamentary elections will be held.

Acting Chief Election Commissioner, Neil Kanta Upreti, said that a permanent mechanism to handle the electoral disputes is a must in Nepal. He believed that the ongoing voter registration process and a new voter identity card could reduce election related disputes in the future.

The Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) is in the process of drafting a proposal for a new electoral dispute resolution mechanism. In September 2010, the ECN organized a BRIDGE workshop on this subject together with IDEA, IFES and UNDP to obtain input into the proposal. Political parties, government ministries, election observer organizations and the media were all invited to contribute and the proceedings were followed up by the release of a concept paper on electoral dispute mechanisms in November. Participants discussed the various electoral justice mechanisms, electoral rights and principal international instruments, as well as the risks of disputes at different stages of the electoral cycle and means of preventing them.

Grant Kippen, an expert on EDR mechanisms, outlined a number of models operating throughout the world. Reflecting on the nature of the workshop, he said he was “impressed by the participants’ –especially of political parties’ - willingness to engage into discussion on electoral dispute resolution mechanism”.

The release of the concept note was well received by all the participants; “we appreciate that civil society organizations observing the elections are invited to discuss the new EDR model at this early stage” said Krishna Man Pradhan, representing DEAN, the alliance of election observation organizations.

Some representatives challenged the draft mechanisms for being based on ‘unitary state’ thinking, rather than reflecting more accurately the political dimensions in Nepal;

In a new federal setting, most of the electoral conflicts should be sorted out at the province level, only very few cases should go to federal level’ said Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar, Constitutent Assemblymember from the UCPN (Maoist party).

The next steps in the process are to prepare the draft law and then share it again with stakeholders - including through regional consultations - with a view to finalizing the proposal. Ultimately the draft law will be discussed and decided by Parliament though.

The shape of the electoral dispute mechanism will yet depend on decisions to be made by the Constituent Assembly relating to the mandate and status of the Election Commission, the nature of the judiciary and the proposed role of the Constitutional Court in electoral dispute resolution.

By Leena Rikkila Tamang, Internatinal IDEA's Head of Mission, Nepal