Report of National Seminar
on Issues and Challenges of Electoral Reforms in Nepal
Organized by Centre for Economic and Technical
7 & 8 July 2007, Nepal Administrative
Staff College, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur
Since the introduction of multi-party democracy
in the country in 1990, the electorates were able to exercise
their political choice in national elections in 1991, 1994 and
in 1999,apart from the two local elections. However, the elections
at the national or local level were thwarted on one or the other
excuse with the growing clout of the King on the executive body.
On 1 February 2005, the King dismissed the duly elected Sher
Bahadur Deuba government, imposed a state of emergency and seized
absolute power through a royal decree. People's uprising against
the authoritarian system culminated in April 2006. Following
this event, people were able to restore the power that they
had ceased to the King.
After the historic April Jana Andolan 2006, the government and
the CPN (Maoist) agreed to hold elections to the constituent
assembly (CA) in June 2007. This election has been due in the
country for last 55 years. Election, though important, is not
all. Election has no meaning if it is not conducted in a free,
fair and fearless manner with larger turn out of voters. This,
however, is not possible until there are electoral reforms.
More critical observation and debates are
needed on the merits and demerits of mixed electoral system
comprising both the elements of first-past-the-post system and
proportional representation system at the same time.
Increasing voters' turn out in the elections
is a major challenge. Lower turnout of the voters during the
elections denotes their lack of commitment and trust in the
electoral system and democratic values. It is, therefore, important
for the Election Commission (EC) to act in way that the voters
are duly educated about their rights to franchise and their
participation in the governance of the country. Only due electoral
reforms could ensure election of right candidates, give legitimacy
to the governance and make the government accountable to the
electorates. In order to support the EC and raise awareness
among the people about the need of electoral reforms in Nepal,
the Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) in cooperation
with Friedrich-Eber-Stiftung (FES) conducted a two-day seminar
on 7 & 8 July at Nepal Administrative Staff College, Jawalakhel,
Lalitpur on the issue of "Issues and Challenges of Electoral
Reforms in Nepal."
The objective of the seminar was to extend
support to EC in identifying some of the core issues in electoral
reforms and educate the common mass of the Nepalese population
about the need of their participation in the Constituent Assembly
(CA) and other national and local elections to come. The specific
objectives of the seminar were to:
1. Promote election system and democracy in
2. Share the experience of countries successfully conducting
CA Election ;
3. Strengthen election administration and autonomy of EC;
4. Create conducive environment for the control of election
5. Judge the contribution of political parties in improving
the electoral process in Nepal; and
6. Present the importance of political institutionalization.
The two-day seminar was organized at the prestigious
institution, Nepal Administrative Staff College, Jawalakhel,
Lalitpur. Major participants of the seminar were academicians,
political activists, journalists, Dalits and women from Madhesh
and different other parts of Nepal (The programme of the seminar,
list of the Seminar participants and the papers presented are
Mr. Dev Raj Dahal: Head FES: Delivering his
welcome address on behalf of the FES and the CETS, Mr. Dahal
hoped that the seminar could prove to be a platform wherein
new ideas could emerge. He held that, Democracy and Elections
are the only available non-violent approaches for societal transformation.
He further said that "Election is a renewable process (5
years period), however, the CA elections is not a continuous
process for it comes only after an era thus understanding the
CA process is most important".
Mr. Nilambar Acharya: Ex-Ambassador: Criticizing
the YCL - the Maoist party affiliate, Mr. Acharya held that
politics of violence continues in the name of YCL and the traces
of peoples' revolt still remain in the Maoist camp. "Democracy
plus Monarchy and Violence plus monarchy should remain out of
the democratic process", he added. The country should be
free of Monarchy and Violence", he said.
Prof. Birendra Mishra: Prof. Mishra held that
the elections have become the most talked, written and spoken
topic over the last 60 years. It is by all means a way to transform
violent conflicts and to make certain Social and Economic Transformation,
he added. "The most difficult part of any elections is
to ensure inclusiveness", he continued.
Mr. Surya Prasad Shrestha (Chairperson), Ex-Chief
Election Commissioner: Speaking as the Chief Guest of the Inaugural
Function, Mr. Shrestha said that elections are the peaceful
means of state transformation and the CA election is a means
to draft laws governing the state. "The Constitution of
the 1991 was called as the most democratic/ comprehensive/ advanced
constitution in the South Asia. The problem with that constitution
was that it had no provision to tackle the Maoist led insurgency"
"To provide legitimacy to the Maoists revolt, the 1991
constitution was scrapped" he continued.
"Important task ahead is to hold CA polls
in a peaceful, free and fair manner but the recent disturbances
and discontent among the Terai people and the Janajatis in the
hills have given bad signals against the peaceful conduct of
the upcoming election", he added.
He concluded that, "CA polls will have no legitimacy if
it were held in a chaotic manner without addressing the pressing
demands of the currently agitating groups. Present chaos in
the country demands unity, solidarity and democracy by fighting
against the communal forces and the reactionary elements."
Dr. Hari Bansh Jha: Dr. Jha thanked the FES
and Mr. Dev Raj Dahal for their continued support to the CETS.
The CETS and FES partnership dates back to 1993, he said. The
FES support to initiate activities targeting poor, under privileged,
women and other excluded groups of the society is highly commendable,
After the Inaugural Function, the first session
started under the chairmanship of Mr. Daman Nath Dhungana, former
Speaker of House of Representatives. In this session, Mr. Bharat
Pokhrel, Department of Economics, Tribhuvan University presented
his paper on "Election System and Democracy Building in
Nepal." In his paper, Mr. Pokhrel discussed the electoral
systems in various countries of the world. He also discussed
Nepal's electoral system and shed light on the performance of
political parties in various elections held in the country in
the past. Need of electoral reforms was experienced as the old
system did not deliver the result. Therefore, apart from the
FPtP system, the proportional system of elections is adopted
in the country. At the present time, the main issue in Nepal
is to hold CA elections as it is going to institutionalize the
gains achieved through the people's war, he said.
From the floor, Mr. Parashuram Jha, former
justice, .Mr. K.D. Mishra, Mr. Shyamanand Suman, former Ambassador,
Dr. Surendra KC, Mr. Narayan Mishra, Mr. Lal Babu Yadav, Mr.
Ganga Thapa, Dr. Rabindra Khanal, Prof. Dambar Narayan Yadav,
Ms. Rama Singh, Ms. Pushpa Thakur, Mr. Md. Parwez, Mr. Nimesh
Jha, Mr. Rajesh Ahiraj, Mr. Basant Vishwokarma, Ms. Shanti Mishra,
and Ms. Vinita Yadav raised several pertinent questions and
made comments on the paper.
The author responded all the questions raised
from the floor. In his chairperson's remarks, Mr. Daman Nath
Dhungana opined that the way the seminar was selective about
the participants showed that Madhesh came to Kathmandu. He took
it as a positive trend. He added that there is no place of democratic
pluralism in Leninism and Stalinism, but it is ridiculous that
the communists are not in a position to give it up. Election
is not an isolated issue. Code of conduct for the CA should
be different from the routine lections. There is also a lack
of commitment among the politicians and political parties that
the CA election is getting delayed. It is now in people's court
to hold elections. The country cannot come out of the tunnel
until the CA elections are held, he added.
The second session of the seminar opened up
with the paper presented by Prof. Birendra Mishra. Supreme Court
judge Mr. Parmanand Jha chaired the session. One of the important
aspects of the paper was the discussion on electoral experience
in Nepal. The paper examined the FPtP system and PR system in
greater details in context to CA elections.
Speaking from the floor, Mr. Md. Habibullah,
Mr. Ganga Thapa, Mr. K.D. Mishra, Mr. Shyamanand Suman, Prof.
Dambar Narayan Yadav, Mr. Keshab Tripathi, Mr. Basant Vishwokarma,
Mr. Rabindra Khanal, Mr. Shyam Shekhar Jha, Mr. Keshab Chaulagain,
Mr. Ashok Upreti, Ms. Draupadi Subedi, Mr. Baidyanath Mishra,
and Ms. Pushpa Thakur made many useful comments and observations
on the paper, which Prof. Birendra Mishra tried to address satisfactorily.
He said that PR system removed some of the inherent weaknesses
of the FPtP system. He also added that independent candidates
might not win the CA elections in PR system.
In his remarks as chairperson of the session,
Mr. Parmanand Jha said that there was detailed discussion in
the session on mixed election. However, he noted that the interests
of the political parties were not clear. He said that Kathmandu
would be Madheshmaya if at least 4 out of 11 seats in CA elections
in Kathamndu go to the Madheshis.
The third session of the Seminar was chaired by Mr. Ayodhi Prasad
Yadav, Election Commissioner. In this session, Mr. Lalit Bahadur
Basnet, Advocate presented his paper on "Electoral Process
and Political Institutionalization in Nepal."
Mr. Basnet said that undemocratic elections
will be suicidal for the country. He was concerned about the
way politics is getting criminalized, the institutional culture
is eroded, election is getting expensive, and there is lack
of internal democracy and rampant poverty and illiteracy in
Mr. Shyamanand Suman, Mr. K.D. Mishra, Mr.
Baidyanath Mishra, Mr. Parasuram Jha, Mr. Pashupati Mishra,
Mr. Basant Vishwokarma, and Mr. Ashok Upreti raised several
questions from the floor, which the author replied satisfactorily.
Chairman of the session, Mr. Ayodhi Prasad Yadav said that the
EC is not an independent institution. Besides, he also discussed
some of the challenges that the EC had been facing in conducting
The fourth session of seminar began in the
next morning on 8 July 2007 with the paper "Financing Elections
and Electoral Reforms in Nepal" by Dr. Hari Bansh Jha.
Eminent economist and leader of Nepali Congress (Democratic)
Dr. Narayan Khadka chaired the session. In his paper, Dr. Jha
gave details of cost per vote in various elections held in the
country after the political change of 1990. He also gave estimate
of cost per vote of the CA election and found that the cost
of elections was increasing significantly in the country.
Prof. Mohan Lohani, Mr. Shyamanada Suman,
Mr. Pashupati Mishra, Mr. Parmananda Jha, Prof. Surya Lal Amatya,
Mr. Baidyanath Mishra, Ms. Shanti Mishra, Ms. Vinita Yadav,
Ms. Shanti Mahato, and Mr. Man Bahadur Sipali raised several
pertinent questions from the floor. The author addressed all
the questions raised from the floor.
Dr. Narayn Khadka, chairperson finally said
that in our region election brings development at the local
level and is a means for economic boom. Money trickles downs
from cities to the local levels during the elections. There
is not only corruption in Election process but the process itself
is too costly, he added.
The fifth session of the seminar began with
the paper presented by Mr. Jan Sharma, senior journalist. Mr.
Neel Kantha Uprety, Election Commissioner chaired the session.
While presenting his paper, Mr. Jan Sharma said that the practice
of introducing 10,000 signatures as pre-requisite for registering
a political party in the EC was discriminatory in itself. He
said that Nepal's largest political party, Nepali Congress,
was not clear about its policy on monarchy and other issues
and its leaders have also not been able to go to the rural areas.
He also observed that the media like Gorkhapatra and Rising
Nepal should be privatized. But the electronic media like NTV
and Radio Nepal should be put in public sector in a way that
the government cannot use them as propaganda tool. There is
sufficient room for legislative reforms, he added.
From the floor, several useful questions were
raised by scholars like Mr. Parashuram Jha, Prof. Md. Md. Habibullah,
Mr. Pashupati Mishra, Dr. Surendra K.C., Mr. Parmanand Jha,
Ms. Rama Singh, Mr. Keshab Tripathi, Mr. K.D. Mishra, Mr. Lakshman
Karki, Mr. Narayan Mishra, Ms. Pushpa Thakur, Mr. Rajesh Ahiraj,
Mr. Man Bahadur Sirpali, Ms. Vinita Yadav, Dr. Mangla Shrestha,
Dr. Basant Vishwokarma, Ms. Shanti Mishra, Ms. Baidyanath Mishra,
Prof. Suryalal Amatya, and Mr. Manoj Yadav on the paper, which
the author responded satisfactorily.
In his remarks as chairperson of the session,
Mr. Neel Kantha Uprety observed that the EC was planning to
make door-to-door visit to make the people aware about CA elections.
He also noted that the EC also envisaged to extend technical
support to the people as to how to vote. He also said that EC
was determined to hold elections.
The sixth session of the seminar started under
the chairmanship of former Minister and Secretary General of
Nepali Congress (Democratic), Mr. Bimlendra Nidhi. In this session,
Dr. Ram Dayal Rakesh presented his paper on "Election Administration
and Autonomy of Election Commission." In his paper, Dr
Rakesh held that 3G, e.g. "Gun, Goonda and Gold" still
prevails in politics. The Election Constituency Delineation
still poses to be a stumbling block before the CA polls. The
formation of ECDA is faulty as there are no experts in the panel,
he said. Challenging the EC, he said that that there is clearly
a lack of transparency within this body itself.
Several scholars including Dr. Surendra K.C.,
Mr. Pashupati Mishra, Mr. K.D. Mishra, Mr. Kali Kant Jha, Mr.
Narayan Mishra, Mr. Md. Habibullah, Ms. Pushpa Thakur, Mr. Baidyanath
Mishra, Mr. Narayan Mishra, and Mr. Gambhir Bahadur Hada made
useful comments on the paper, which the author responded satisfactorily.
In his remarks as chairperson, Mr. Bimlendra Nidhi said that
the EC should be autonomous and it must be free from favouritism.