Nepal to conduct fresh elections

The Election Commission had begun talks with government authorities to chalk out new election programme.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 21:21 IST

Nepal's top election official on Friday said fresh polls would be held for the nearly 54 per cent posts that remained vacant even after the controversial February 8 polls that were criticised at home and abroad.

Keshav Raj Rajbhandari, the chief election commissioner, told on Friday that elections would be held again for over 2,200 municipal posts that could not be filled after Wednesday's elections due to absence of candidates as well as those elected resigning soon after, fearing attacks by the Maoist guerrillas.

Rajbhandari said the Election Commission had begun talks with security officials and government authorities to chalk out the new election programme.

"I can't give you an exact date now but I can assure you fresh elections would be held," he said.

King Gyanendra, who has headed the government since seizing power through a bloodless coup last year, reiterated this month that he would also hold parliamentary elections by April 2007.

Rajbhandari could not say if the fresh municipal polls would be held before that.

The municipal elections came under severe national and international condemnation with about 21 per cent of voters turning up to vote and over 2,200 posts remaining vacant due to absence of candidates.

Only 22 parties participated against the over 120 that had taken part in the last elections nearly eight years ago.

The seven major parties that had won over 81 per cent seats in the last polls boycotted the exercise, saying it was a ploy by the King to legitimise his power grab.

Rajbhadari's assertion came after a former election commissioner, Birendra Mishra, raised questions about the Election Commission's future course of action.

According to Mishra, Nepal's constitution allowed repolling only if a candidate of a recognised party died before the polls.

He said that if the Election Commission decided to hold a re-poll, there was no guarantee that people would come forward to take part.

If they stayed away again due to the fear of Maoists, would the commission go on asking for nominations ad infinitum and put itself in a position of ridicule, Mishra queried.

Rajbhandari's assertion indicated that the King was likely to issue a royal ordinance to amend the existing election laws and authorise re-polling.

Since he seized power with the help of the army last year, the King has made several royal ordinances to centralise power and override the lacuna created by the absence of parliament.

Though the government remains tight-lipped on the money it spent on Wednesday's elections, it cost Nepal billions of rupees due to the four-day shutdown called by the Maoists to prevent the polls.

The shutdown paralysed transport, educational institutions, industries and markets.

However, Nepal's royalist government says if elections could be held in Jammu and Kashmir, they could be held in Nepal too despite the Maoist insurgency.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 21:21 IST