Legal Framework and Reform Aspects of Election Management

Yagya Prasad Bhattarai, Joint Secretariat
Election Commission

  1. Introduction

The periodic election and adult franchise are important pillars of democracy. Elections must be independent, fair, and credible. The electoral system, management, and procedures are outlined in the constitution and election-related laws. Society is dynamic and changes faster than laws; hence, laws must be revised and amended to meet societal demands and desires. In the current context, there is a growing call from the general public, experts, and media for reform in the electoral system.

Reforming the electoral system is a broad subject that requires amendments and improvements in the constitution, election laws, procedural and managerial aspects, and political culture. It is possible to achieve some improvements by amending the existing election-related laws. After obtaining theoretical consensus from the Council of Ministers of the Government of Nepal to draft integrated election-related laws, the Election Commission has prepared a draft bill based on post-election reviews, and suggestions from political parties, intellectuals, and election stakeholders.

The Commission has approved this draft bill and submitted it to the Government of Nepal for the purpose of presenting it to Parliament. This draft bill integrates provisions from seven

different election-related acts and certain provisions from the Election Commission Act. It also includes directive orders issued by the courts. Additionally, the bill introduces some new provisions and updates certain aspects to reflect contemporary needs.

If the Government of Nepal presents this bill to Parliament without removing its provisions, and if Parliament enacts the bill as it is, incorporating public desires, some improvements in the electoral system can be expected.

This article attempts to shed light on the new provisions included in the Election Management Bill approved by the Election Commission and submitted to the Government of Nepal, the issues requiring reform in the electoral system, and the necessity to amend and revise the Political Parties Act, 2017.

Election

In most democratic countries, the process by which individuals are elected to various legislative bodies through voting by the adult populace is called an election. This involves choosing a preferred candidate for a particular role or position through the casting of votes. An election is a legal process where voters exercise their right to vote to select representatives and participate in decision-making. It is the most important method for selecting representatives at all levels of governance, from the central government to the local level, to make decisions on future policies, plans, and programs of a country.

For an election to be free and fair, voters must be able to cast their votes fearlessly without any threats, intimidation, coercion, or temptation. Stakeholders in the election must carry out their responsibilities impartially for the election to be considered free. Similarly, to ensure fairness, the authorities conducting the election, officials, and the government must treat all parties, candidates, political activists, and other stakeholders without bias or prejudice. Voting and vote counting must be conducted in a secure and fair manner. The essence of a clean, independent, and fair election is that the people can freely choose the individuals and parties they truly believe in. According to the Election Commission Act, 2017, and other election-related laws, an election refers to the election of the President, Vice President, members of the Federal Parliament, Provincial Assembly members, and members of the local levels as per the constitution and federal laws, and this term also includes by-elections.

  1. Constitutional and Legal Provisions Related to Elections

Election law is created to conduct and manage elections in a clean, independent, and fair manner and to regulate the activities of institutions, bodies, and individuals related to elections. Election law encompasses the constitution, acts related to elections, regulations, codes of conduct, directives, procedures, guidelines, standards, and other legal documents. The legislature enacts laws related to elections, and the body managing elections creates rules, directives, and other necessary legal instruments under those laws. In the context of Nepal, the Election Commission is an independent constitutional body, and to uphold its independence and competence, the legislature has theoretically delegated the authority to make such delegated laws to the Commission.

3.1 Constitution

The constitution is the fundamental law of a country. It clearly delineates the rights of the people, the powers of the state, and the authority of the government. The formation of the necessary bodies for state operation, the determination of their jurisdictions, and the roles, duties, and rights of public officials are all defined by the constitution. The constitution grants the authority to enact acts and regulations. The constitution is the source of legitimacy for laws, the government, and its branches. Therefore, the constitution is regarded as the primary political and legal document that limits government power, protects the rights of the people, and defines the distribution and relationship of power among the branches of government.

 

Article 245 of the Constitution of Nepal provides for the Election Commission, and Article 246 outlines its duties, functions, and powers. Part 24, Article 245 of the constitution establishes the Election Commission. The Commission comprises a Chief Election Commissioner and four other commissioners. The Chief Election Commissioner acts as the chairperson of the Commission.

 

The guiding principles of election law, according to international standards, include the universal right to vote, equal voting rights, direct participation in voting, secret ballots, and equal participation in elections. These principles are fundamental components of election law.

3.2 Election-Related Acts and Regulations

The following are the acts related to elections:

  • Election Commission Act, 2016
  • Voter List Act, 2016
  • Election (Offenses and Punishments) Act, 2016
  • Local Level Election Act, 2016
  • Political Parties Act, 2016
  • House of Representatives Election Act, 2017
  • Provincial Assembly Election Act, 2017
  • Election of the President and Vice President Act, 2017
  • National Assembly Election Act, 2018

Regulations

The following are the regulations related to elections:

  • Voter List Regulations, 2011
  • Election Commission Regulations, 2016
  • Local Level Election Regulations, 2016
  • Political Parties Regulations, 2017
  • House of Representatives Election Regulations, 2017
  • Provincial Assembly Election Regulations, 2017
  • Election of the President and Vice President Regulations, 2017
  • National Assembly Election Regulations, 2019

4. The Need for Election Law Reform

Although nearly seven decades have passed since the practice of elections began in Nepal, the House of Representatives election held in 1991 (2048 BS) was the first truly competitive multiparty general election in the modern sense. In 1959 (2015 BS), Nepali citizens also exercised their adult franchise in the then House of Representatives election.

Since 2048 B.S., there have been significant improvements in various election-related laws that have been developed over subsequent elections. The qualitative improvements in the legal, policy, procedural, and principled aspects of elections are the reasons why periodic elections in Nepal have been conducted independently, fairly, and credibly, with the results being acceptable to both international and national observers. There are primarily two ways to address electoral reforms. First, immediate improvements can be made within the current system by amending existing laws and policies. Second, if there is political cooperation, extensive national debate, and political consensus, reforms can be made by amending the constitution. Presently, there are calls for reforms in the electoral system. Election law is the second most important law after the constitution for governance reforms. Therefore, it has been felt necessary to include topics for possible improvements within the current electoral management and amend and revise the laws related to election management while staying within the constitutional framework.

The Government of Nepal, concurring with the recommendation of the Election Commission to consolidate the provisions scattered across various existing laws into a unified election-related act, granted in-principle approval for the drafting of such a law as per the decision of the Council of Ministers on 14th Poush 2078 B.S.

The draft of the bill on election management and operations has been prepared by amending and integrating the provisions of various laws established for different electoral purposes. This draft was developed in consultation with subject matter experts in election law, experienced individuals related to elections, and other stakeholders across various provinces. The preparation of this draft law on election management involved extensive discussions and consultations, thoroughly adhering to the principle of public participation in the law-making process.

  1. New Provisions in the Proposed Election Management Bill

Provisions from seven election-related acts and certain provisions from the existing Election Commission Act, 2073 have been incorporated into a unified bill on election management. Due to the existence of separate acts for various elections, some legal provisions were repetitive, and different provisions existed for similar matters. Therefore, uniformity has been established. An initial draft was prepared, refined based on feedback from past election reviews, suggestions from political parties and election stakeholders, and interactions at the provincial level, incorporating the opinions of relevant experts. The present draft includes mostly provisions from existing legal frameworks, some provisions mandated by court orders, and other provisions that have been revised and updated to reflect current needs. Additionally, a few new provisions have been added. This draft bill on election management was approved by the Election Commission on 3 July 2023 and has been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of Nepal for the purpose of being presented to Parliament. The key provisions included in the Election Management Bill are as follows:

Provisions Related to the Voter List

Many aspects related to voter list registration and updating remain as per the existing provisions. Among the new provisions, there is a system for collecting and updating the voter list regularly through electoral offices or the respective local levels via electronic means. There is a provision allowing individuals to register or transfer their names to the voter list of the ward where their parent, spouse, or child is registered. Any Nepali citizen can register their name in the voter list of the ward where they permanently reside from any election office. If someone’s name is found to be included in the voter list of more than one location, they must submit an application to the registration officer, and any such duplicate entries will be removed. There is also a provision to collect information on Nepali citizens residing abroad for the purpose of preparing the voter list.

Provisions Related to the Election Date

There has been ongoing debate at both the citizen and governmental levels regarding how to determine the election date on a regular basis. The Nepalese government has decided to enshrine the election date determination process in legislation, considering factors such as favoring the incumbent party when setting the election date by the government, and ensuring ease of election preparation and management when determined by the Election Commission. Therefore, the election date is stipulated in the Election Date Bill, ensuring appropriateness in accordance with the legislation. For instance, the presidential or vice-presidential election is set three days before the end of the incumbent’s term, the announcement of the final election results of the House of Representatives or Provincial Assembly is set for the first Sunday eleven months after the four-year, eleven-month term, and the announcement of the election results for the chief, deputy chief, chairperson, vice-chairperson, ward chairperson, and ward member of the local level is set for the first Sunday eleven months after the four-year, eleven-month term.

Election Campaign Period and Silence Period

To regulate elections and prevent campaigning prior to the voting day, it has been deemed necessary to impose restrictions on campaigning activities from some time before the voting day. Therefore, in order to address concerns about the potential increase in unwanted activities during this period, it has been proposed to reduce the duration of this period to twenty-four hours and designate it as a silence period. This means that from twenty-four hours before the voting day until the completion of the voting process, there will be a designated silence period.

Moreover, as the duration of election campaigning increases, so does the expenditure for parties and candidates, and when elections become expensive, the election campaign period is shortened. For the presidential or vice-presidential election, seven days are allocated, fifteen days for the election of members of the House of Representatives or Provincial Assembly, seven days for the election of members of the National Assembly, and fifteen days for the election of members of the local level.

Provisions related to Disqualification of Candidates in Elections:

To ensure the integrity of elections, prevent adverse effects from public perception, and guarantee the representation of clean individuals, necessary arrangements have been made regarding the eligibility of candidates to prevent disqualification in elections. The following individuals are additionally disqualified from running in elections.

  Any person listed in the blacklist of any company or institution under prevailing laws shall remain disqualified as long as such list is in force, and the director, officer, or chief executive of such company or institution shall remain disqualified.

  A cooperative institution shall be liable for damages if it suffers financial loss contrary to prevailing laws while serving as a director.

  If someone is under detention or trial for contempt of court or evasion of compensation ordered by the court, the order shall remain effective until the compensation is paid.

  Failure to pay taxes as required by prevailing laws.

  Amounts embezzled from the final audit must be recovered personally, and such a person shall remain ineligible for candidacy for up to five years.

  Any person elected twice through the proportional representation system for a federal parliament, provincial assembly, or local level shall be ineligible for candidacy under the same electoral system except for the position they were elected for.

  A person holding a position as a member of a political party cannot resign from such a party and become a candidate for another political party.

  A person holding a position as a member of the House of Representatives or the State Assembly shall automatically vacate the seat after registering for a nomination letter, as per the provisions of the bill on automatic release from such positions after registration for a nomination letter.

Dispute Resolution Mechanism for Elections

The situation where the resolution of election disputes in courts becomes significantly delayed is prevalent. Therefore, with the aim of expediting the handling of election-related issues, provisions have been made for such matters to be dealt with promptly and expediently. In cases where there is an objection regarding the incompetence of any elected individual in the elections for the positions of President, Vice President, members of the Federal Parliament, members of the Provincial Assembly, or members of the local level, the respective court shall handle such matters within a month and take necessary actions accordingly. There is a provision for the Supreme Court to adjudicate on the incompetence of any elected individual concerning the positions of President or Vice President, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court for members of the Federal Parliament or Provincial Assembly, and the District Court concerned for members of the local level.

Transparency of the candidate

Voters have the right to know about the candidates. A system has been established where, before becoming a candidate for a public office, the individual must provide details such as their educational qualifications, experience, details of achievements obtained, and other relevant information as per the requirement, and declare themselves as eligible or ineligible for candidacy. This declaration is made in the presence of election authorities during the specified time, along with a commitment to attend when summoned, with the obligation to provide their written consent for scrutiny. The responsibility of submitting documents, details, commitments, and declarations, along with the nomination paper, lies with the candidate themselves. When a candidate submits their nomination paper, they must also provide details of their property in their own name and in the name of their family members, ensuring transparency about themselves. There is a provision for making the personal details of the candidate public when there is a right to know about the candidate.

Election Expenses

When submitting a candidacy, candidates are required to provide details of the bank account to be used for election purposes, estimated expenses for election purposes along with their sources, and financial support received in the form of taxes refunded. The commitment to use only that account for election expenses must be presented in the prescribed format.

When determining the limit of election expenses, provisions may be made to vary the limit in different geographical areas based on factors such as the difficulty or distance of the area, the number of polling centers, the number of voters, and the availability of transportation. Candidates may incur expenses during elections through the bank account mentioned in their candidacy declaration. Nepali citizens may voluntarily provide financial support to any candidate or political party for the purpose of the election. If expenses are incurred by a political party or candidate in excess of the prescribed limit, the Election Commission or the authorized election official may monitor or investigate the matter, and upon such investigation, the Commission may establish a monitoring mechanism.

When the details of election expenses are submitted by the President, Vice-President, members of the Federal Parliament, members of the Provincial Assembly, heads, deputy heads, presidents or vice-presidents of local bodies, or political parties, according to the law, it shall be subjected to an audit conducted by an authorized auditor, and such audit report shall also be submitted to the Commission within the specified timeframe, and the details submitted in this manner may be inspected by the officer authorized by the Commission.

Advance voting Arrangements

In the proportional representation voting system for the election of members of the House of Representatives, there is a provision for the presence of employees or security personnel involved in the electoral process, election observers, those going on foreign trips, and voters engaged in any trade, business, employment, or health services to cast their votes in advance at the polling station.

Proportional Representation Elections.

For the election of members of the local bodies, arrangements are made for separate ballot papers for the positions of chairperson and vice-chairperson or president and vice-president, as well as for ward chairperson and ward members. Necessary arrangements are also made at the polling stations for vote counting, and the Election Commission may publish information in the Nepal Gazette regarding the elections or electoral areas and may facilitate the use of electronic devices for voting. Provision is made for bid counting when two or more candidates receive an equal number of votes in the election.

Provisions Regarding Tenure Calculation

To end the ambivalence regarding tenure calculation, a specific provision has been made. According to the rule, when calculating the tenure of a member of the House of Representatives, a member of the Provincial Assembly, or a member of the local level, it will be counted from the day of the election. There is a provision that the tenure of a member of the House of Representatives or a member of the Provincial Assembly shall automatically be deemed to have expired from the date of filing the nomination for the election. Additionally, the tenure of a member who files candidacy in the election of a local level member shall automatically expire from the day they file their candidacy.

Special Provisions Regarding Women Candidates

There is a provision that when submitting candidacies for the first-past-the-post election system for members of the House of Representatives or the Provincial Assembly, at least 33% of the constituencies in which such parties will nominate candidates must be women candidates. There are several provisions regarding the nomination of female candidates in local level elections. Firstly, there must be at least one female candidate among the positions of Chairperson or Vice Chairperson, Chief or Deputy Chief of the local level. Additionally, if only one post is being nominated, a woman candidate must be nominated. Furthermore, at least 33% of all Ward Chairpersons nominated by the party at the relevant local level must be women candidates. Any nominations from political parties that violate these provisions of women’s candidature will be canceled as per the relevant section. Additionally, there is a provision that if there is a vacancy in a ward on the day of the nomination of candidates according to the election program and no Dalit women member candidates are nominated, minority women can be candidates for such positions. Similarly, while preparing the closed list of candidates, each political party should prepare a closed list for at least 25% of the total number of members to be elected under the proportional election system. Additionally, while preparing the closed list of candidates, there is a provision that at least 50% of the total candidates should be women.

In relation to People with Disabilities and Queer Community

There is a provision to include people with disabilities and the queer community based on population and specified inclusion principles, considering geography and regional balance, in the closed list of candidates. Additionally, there is a provision ensuring easy access for people with disabilities while collecting or updating the voter list. Voting stations for elections should be disabled-friendly wherever possible. Similarly, the Commission can arrange ballot papers in braille for visually impaired voters. Moreover, candidates who are Dalits, women, persons with disabilities, part of the queer community, economically disadvantaged, or from minority communities receive a 50% discount on the bond amount during elections.

Provisions Regarding Election Offenses and Punishment

The right to process and dispose of election-related cases has been arranged such that offenses punishable with imprisonment of up to one year shall be vested in the chief district officer, while offenses punishable with imprisonment of more than one year shall be vested in the district court. It has been arranged that cases related to election offenses will be included in Schedule-1 of the National Civil Criminal Procedure (Code). Penalties in cases related to election offenses have been revised periodically. Influencing the election through social media is also considered a crime. There is a provision that a candidate, election representative, or any other person shall not defame the character of another candidate or their family member in any way through social media, or any other means in order to influence the election results. Likewise, if someone commits an election-related offense outside Nepal, they will be punished within Nepal.

Provision for Right to Reject Candidate

If a voter wants to vote without supporting any candidate, there is a provision that the Commission can arrange for a ballot option that indicates no support for any candidate. Voters who do not support any candidate should vote by marking their ballot paper as specified by the polling officer. When counting the ballot papers, if the number of votes indicating no support for any candidate exceeds 50% of the total votes cast in that election, the election shall be canceled. If the election is canceled this way, the election schedule should be reissued, and a new vote should be conducted. Additionally, the individual who was previously a candidate cannot participate again.

Right to Vote for Nepali Citizens Living Abroad

The Commission has established a provision to allow individuals whose names are included in the electoral roll abroad to vote in the proportional election system of the House of Representatives from the same country, with the assistance of diplomatic missions of Nepal.

Other Provisions

There is a provision that to be a candidate in the election of a member of the National Assembly, the candidate’s name must be included in the electoral roll of a local level within the respective province. The commission will collect and update the voter list, provide advice on the determination of voting stations, assist and facilitate the management of these stations, and coordinate with relevant local levels or assign responsibility to the local levels for conducting elections or voter education programs. On election days for members of the House of Representatives, Provincial Assembly, or local levels, the issue of managing public transport to facilitate the voting process has been addressed. Additionally, it has been arranged that domestically produced election materials should be given priority if they are available.

  1. Aspects of Reform in Electoral System

As the current electoral system is expensive and has many shortcomings, there are voices calling for reforms to make the election management and operations free, fair, efficient, and economical. These voices emphasize the need for improving the effectiveness of the electoral system. We have adopted a mixed electoral system. However, there are voices expressing concerns that elections conducted through this system have not demonstrated government stability and inclusiveness in accordance with the spirit of the constitution and the aspirations of the people. Political instability and fluidity of government practice are the biggest challenges in Nepal. In this context, the need to amend the constitution and improve the election system itself has started to be felt. Reforming the electoral system means creating and implementing an electoral system that is more inclusive than the one currently in use. Therefore, it seems desirable to simplify the existing system or to reform the policy, legal and procedure in our electoral system so that election results of a more inclusive character can be achieved. Due to the lack of an effective mechanism to monitor the election expenses, there is uncontrolled competition between the candidates and the election is gradually becoming a subject beyond the reach of the public. Expensive electoral systems favor candidates who can afford to spend large sums of money, rather than those who are honest and dedicated. This compels political parties to nominate such wealthy individuals as candidates. Consequently, expensive electoral systems do not promote good governance. Therefore, this process of election campaigning is necessary to make the agenda of electoral system reform.

When political parties select proportional and direct candidates, arrangements should be made for the ordinary members of the respective parties within each constituency, district, or local level to select candidates through secret voting, such as preliminary elections. Additionally, it is necessary to grant voters the right to reject a candidate, compelling parties to choose more qualified and suitable candidates.

The details of expenses incurred by parties and candidates in the election should be transparent. It is necessary to arrange for the Auditor General to audit the income and expenditure details of the parties and candidates in the elections. To ensure free, clean, and fair elections, it seems essential to promote the use of modern technology and make election management and administration technology friendly. In particular, the political parties of Nepal must fully comply with the Constitution of Nepal, party statutes, election manifestos and state policy rules and play a leading role in policy formulation and implementation. It is necessary for the party to emphasize maintaining good governance and financial transparency, making the candidate selection process democratic and transparent, increasing women’s representation, and making every party’s work transparent. In order to advance the mentioned reform issues, it is necessary to reform the electoral system by making amendments to the constitution itself with political cooperation and consensus through extensive debate.

  1. The Need for Amendment and Revision of the Political Party Act 2017

After the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal, the Political Party Act 2017 is being implemented. The act’s purpose is to further organize the process related to the formation, registration and operation of political parties and to make the work, operations and financial management of the party more transparent and responsible. After the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal, elections at all levels were held twice or for two terms. During the election review, various suggestions have been received from various election stakeholders and experts. Various issues have been exposed by the general citizen media and political parties as well. Similarly, the Election Commission has approved the draft Election Management Bill and submitted it to the Government of Nepal by integrating the scattered election related laws and including some new provisions. In this context, there is a need to maintain continuity of laws related to political parties even with the Election Management Bill.

There is a need to revise and amend the Political Parties Act, 2017 to make the political parties more transparent and responsible to address the needs and wants of society. The subjects to be included in the amendment and modification of the existing Political Parties Act, 2017 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) are as follows. To be registered as a party under the existing law, the chief officer of the party must submit a letter of commitment from at least 500 Nepalese voters who wish to obtain party membership. This must be accompanied by the Central Committee’s decision and a declaration stating that each person giving the commitment is not a member of another party, along with a certified copy of their citizenship or voter ID card.

To address whether the 500 Nepali voters pledged to obtain party membership are members of another party or have resigned from another party, and to prevent forgery of their signatures, there needs to be a legal provision for authenticating their signatures through the relevant election office and submitting them to the Commission. This practice was initiated in July 2023 following a decision by the Commission. However, it would be better to incorporate this requirement into the law itself.

For the registration of a political party, it is necessary to verify whether the 500 members, as well as the officers and members of the Central Committee, are blacklisted, have unpaid penalties imposed by the court, or have been involved in any criminal activities. Additionally, it should be checked if they have been punished according to clause (b) of subsection (2) of section 14 of the Act. In this regard, it seems necessary to include a legal provision that allows the Commission to request a report from the police.

When political parties distribute membership, they must be distributed to Nepali citizens who have met the qualifications as mentioned in Section 14 of the Act. However, some parties distribute party membership even to persons who are disqualified as per section 14. The party grants membership to individuals who have obtained foreign citizenship after being Nepali citizens through descent from their parents or grandparents who were Nepali citizens by birth. Currently, there is no provision in the law specifying the actions or penalties for political parties engaging in such activities. Similarly, in some cases, political parties have been distributing memberships to individuals prohibited by law and appointing existing teaching staff members as congress representatives. Since there are no defined penalties for such actions, it is imperative to address this issue and establish appropriate punishments.

Section 14 of the Act stipulates that a person who has been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for corruption, extortion, human trafficking, drug sale, distribution and export, embezzlement, money laundering, abduction, or other criminal offenses indicating moral turpitude cannot be made a member of the party. Likewise, Section 16 of the Act specifies that elections for each officer in the central committee at the federal level of the party and the provincial committee at the Provincial level must be conducted at least once every five years.

However, the Act does not address district and local level committees specifically. Therefore, there should be a legal arrangement for political parties to conduct elections for their district and local level committees at least once every five years. The details of the elected committees should be submitted to the relevant election office. Also, the election office should have a legal framework in place to monitor these committees’ formation.

In Section 49 of the Act, there is also a provision for two or more parties to jointly participate in the election by taking the election symbol or any other election symbol obtained by a party. Such a provision is not compatible with the spirit of Article 269 of the Constitution of Nepal and is against political values and principles. Therefore, it is necessary to repeal/remove the provision.

Similarly, the trend of individuals holding official positions and memberships within one political party obtaining candidate nomination letters from another political party and participating in elections under the latter’s election symbol appears to have increased in recent times. Such action is contrary to the spirit of the constitution, the political values and principles, and the party’s constitution. Before the election, two or more political parties with different ideologies form a pre-election alliance.

On one hand, it is deemed dishonest to the electorate to seek their support through an alliance, only to dissolve it after winning the election and forming the government. On the other hand, pre-election alliances between parties with divergent philosophies and ideologies are incompatible with democratic values, political principles, and the competitive multi-party democratic governance system outlined in the preamble of the constitution. Therefore, there is a need to amend the Political Party Act to prevent such distortions.

When political parties and their candidates participate in elections, they create a manifesto and make commitments to the people through that manifesto. However, after winning the election, the governing party often fails to fulfill the promises made in their election manifesto. Therefore, there is a need to amend the law and make the political parties responsible and accountable to the people by stopping such acts of irresponsibility towards the people. According to Section 53 of the Act, it is advisable to establish procedures to publish the details of individuals who have declared their assets and those who have not, and to subsequently submit these details to the commission.

Section 20 of the Political Parties Act provides for the duties, duties and rights of each political party. However, there appears to be no provision holding parties accountable for the roles outlined in the Act. Therefore, it is necessary to legislate that every political party prepare and publicly disclose a report on activities conducted in accordance with Section 20 of the Act within three months of the end of the financial year. Additionally, a copy of this report should be submitted to the commission for public record.

The current system requires that the Central Committee of a political party must have at least 21 members. However, there is no provision specifying a maximum number. In some cases, there is a growing practice of political parties forming central committees of thousands of people in an unfavorable number. Therefore, the maximum number of the central committee should also be specified in the law itself.

It is crucial to determine the number of members who can be nominated to the central committee of the party. Instances where some parties have more nominees than elected members contradict democratic values. Therefore, it is necessary to specify in the law the percentage of members that can be nominated by the party. Similarly, there should be a provision mandating that at least 33% of the party’s central committee members are women. There is a situation where some parties keep women only in the central committee and do not keep them in positions higher than the treasurer. Therefore, there is a need for a legal arrangement to ensure 33% female representation even among the officers of the Central Committee. There are several issues and challenges within political parties in Nepal, one of which is the lack of financial transparency regarding the parties’ income and expenditures. Another issue is the influence of interest groups on the income and expenditures of political parties, resulting in dependency on donors and increased political corruption. Furthermore, the third issue concerns the regulation of financial management within political parties, highlighting the insufficient regulatory framework governing party finances. Additionally, the fourth issue pertains to the institutional development of political parties. There is inequality among parties, and the institutional development and capacity of many parties are weak.

Transparency in Political Parties

The income and expenditure of political parties in Nepal are opaque. There are reasons why party expenditure cannot be transparent and open. The party conceals and avoids disclosing accurate financial details regarding its income, expenditures, and donations. Financial statements of political parties are opaque and incomplete. Furthermore, the level of economic and financial discipline within parties is deteriorating, hindering their ability to accurately represent reality. The party refuses to provide accurate details of its income, expenditures, and donations to the regulatory body and refrains from making them public. The party fails to disclose the reasons for acquiring resources through illegal means.

Additionally, there is no fixed maximum limit on voluntary financial support that can be provided to a party. The current provision allows parties to receive and utilize financial support without any specified upper limit. There is no legal provision that allows individuals or organizations providing financial support to the party to deduct or show expenses for tax assessment purposes. Moreover, there is no legal provision allowing organizations to support the party based solely on the net income of the previous year. Furthermore, there is no independent monitoring and inspection of the financial activities of the party, leading to opacity in their financial activities and expenditures.

Influence of Interest Groups and Donors on the Party

The party’s income and expenditure heavily rely on donors, who significantly influence its finances. There has been an increasing impact from individuals, organizations, and interest groups that donate to the party. This heightened influence has led to rising corruption at the policy level, driven by the agendas of these interest groups. Due to the growing influence of wealthy donors within the party, financially disadvantaged, honest, and capable individuals are being deterred. In the exercise of power, the situation is dominated by donors who provide financial support to interest groups and parties. There is a provision in the party’s fund that restricts funds to be sourced solely from non-governmental sources.

Regulation of Party Finance Management

The lack of adequate and effective regulation of the party’s financial management is a significant issue. It is evident that the party disregards the implementation of the existing legal framework. Another contributing factor is the insufficient resources within regulatory bodies to strengthen regulation. Additionally, there is weak and sporadic monitoring of party activities by citizens, civil society, and the media.

Institutional Development of the Party

Political parties have not developed institutional capacity. Incidents of political corruption involving parties and their leaders are on the rise. Additionally, there is economic disparity among the parties, which creates an uneven playing field. The weakening of integrity within the party has led to the marginalization of honest and capable individuals, hindering the development of the party’s capacity. Additionally, the party lacks a developed self-evaluation system. Parties have unequal access to sources of income. Party funds are not sustainable. In the same way, institutional development has become weak because the capacity of the party has not been increased.

Therefore, the party alternative in democracy is a transformed party. Addressing the issues within political parties of Nepal, it is crucial to make party activities transparent, accountable, and responsible. This includes discouraging opacity in income and expenditure and reducing dependency on donors.

Similarly, it is necessary to prevent actions such as taking advantage of the donor’s compensation at the policy level for donating to the party. It is necessary to make the political party’s regulation effective and strong by institutional development. For effective party governance, it is essential to establish clear standards for political parties and enforce legal penalties for accessing state funds or accepting financial support and donations from individuals or organizations. Additionally, conducting audits of party income and expenditure by the Auditor General’s Office should be mandated.

  1. Conclusion:

Election laws are essential for ensuring elections are conducted clean, independent, and reliable. It is important to revise and amend election laws according to the demands and wishes of society. Reforms in election management can be achieved by amending and updating existing laws. To facilitate this, the Election Commission has drafted a bill consolidating provisions from seven separate Acts, along with certain provisions from the Election Commission Act and directives issued by the court. Some new subjects have been included in the said bill, while some subjects have been amended and modified in a timely manner. The draft of the Election Management Bill has been prepared and submitted to the Parliament by the Government of Nepal for the necessary process. If the bill is passed by the parliament and implemented as law, it can lead to improvements in the election system and contribute to maintaining good governance. This requires the strong will, cooperation and activism of Parliament, Government and People’s Representatives. In the same way, there is a need to revise and amend the Act on political parties to make the political parties more responsible and transparent.