Excessive campaign spending a concern amid new election talks

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No less than 283 local governments will complete their five-year terms in May next year. According to the schedule, there are seven months left until the next vote to elect leaders at the local level. Elections for local governments ended in September 2017.

Likewise, there is a little over a year left in the country to elect its new provincial assemblies and its federal parliament.

Election expense reports show billions of rupees were spent in previous polls that elected three levels of government for the first time in the country’s history.

A study by the Nepal Election Observation Committee has shown that elections are becoming a costly affair as the government, political parties and candidates spent an estimated total of Rs 131.63 billion in previous elections.

The report found that the government spent 34.72 billion rupees while the candidates and their supporters spent up to 96.91 billion rupees in total. According to the committee’s figures, the cost per voter in elections for the three levels of government was Rs 8,492. There were a total of 15,427,938 eligible voters in the 2017 election.

Another study report of the committee showed that 69.42 billion rupees had been spent in the three phases of local elections alone, with a cost per voter amounting to 4,923 rupees. The increase in election spending was criticized when the reports were released four years ago. As new elections approach, experts suggest the country should adopt policies to cut spending.

Surya Nath Upadhyay, former chief commissioner of the Abuse of Power Inquiry Commission, said election expenses can only be verified if the election commission strongly opposes it.

He said that the extravagance of election advertising can be controlled by allocating some time to state-owned media based on the strength of the parties for their campaign while stopping other types of advertising.

As parties spend huge sums of money on rallies, Upadhyay says there should be strict conditions for permission before holding election rallies, such as caps on the number of participants.

“Electoral funding of parties by donors should also be included in the opinion of the Election Commission,” he said. “The commission should set up a separate entity to monitor election expenses. “

The Election Commission Act 2017 allows the commission to disqualify the candidate if he exceeds the spending limit in elections.

The commission imposes a fine if a candidate spends more than the prescribed amount. If the candidate does not pay the set fines, section 26 (1) of the law allows the commission to exclude him from any election for a period of up to six years.

The commission also has the power to disqualify an elected candidate for non-payment of such fines, in accordance with section 26 (5) of the Act.

Observers say it is difficult to control overspending in elections unless political parties support the idea and the Election Commission is bold enough to act independently.

Shree Hari Aryal, former president of Transparency International, Nepal, said selection should be made as soon as candidates are selected in order to control overspending.

“Spending will be automatically controlled if honest candidates are selected,” Aryal told the Post. “There must be strict provisions not to allow corrupt people to run for office. “

Aryal said the existing Political Parties Act 2017 and the Election Commission Act need to be amended to incorporate provisions relating to the selection of candidates, the disclosure of candidate assets and the accountability of respective parties to their respective parties. candidates.

Candidates in all elections are currently exempt from disclosing their property details.

Experts in electoral affairs suggest creating a common fund and providing money to parties and candidates based on their share of the vote in the previous election.

In 2003-04, then Finance Minister Prakash Chandra Lohani introduced public funding for political parties into the fiscal budget. According to its proposal, the government would grant subsidies to national political parties two months before the elections based on the votes they received in the recent House of Representatives elections.

According to the proposal, each vote would represent Rs20. The proposal also allowed parties to raise funds through corporate donations, provided the source of those donations is transparent.

However, the plan was never implemented.

Dolakh Bahadur Gurung, former commissioner at the Election Commission, said that the establishment of a common fund by the government and a common fund of private and other donors would help verify spending during elections and trace the source of the money spent on election campaigns.

He said that while the government fund has money from state coffers, there must be a separate pooled fund where private donors put their money.

Money raised in the common fund, Gurung said, should be distributed among parties based on their size and strength in previous elections.

“The private sector, I believe, would be ready to put money in the basket if the government announced programs as a tax exemption for their participation,” he told The Post. “This will not only control spending, but will also make the funding of political parties transparent. “


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