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Does money play a bigger role in Nepali elections?

Violation of the election code of conduct limiting campaign expenditure is rampant.

2022 Nov 18, 9:17, Kathmandu

Ever since the establishment of democracy in Nepal, elections have been the driving force to remain a democratic nation. By active execution of their voting rights Nepali citizens can choose whom they prefer to run the government. However, the election observation committee of Nepal (EOC) , has called into question the integrity of electoral democracy in Nepal.

High expenditure in Nepali elections has become a norm. High campaign spending by the candidates and political parties has come to be a major concern determining the validity of elections in Nepal. Considering the situation, questions about the regulatory framework governing election campaigns in Nepal arise.

A nine month long study conducted by the Election Observation Committee of Nepal, showed money to perhaps be the most significant factor in Nepali elections. In the 2017 federal and provincial level elections under the new federal system of governance, candidates spent more money on elections than all of the political parties and Government combined.

Financial evidence obtained by the Election Observation Committee of Nepal shows that, Rs. 6,942 Crores was spent on the local level elections, in which candidates and their supporters spent Rs. 5096 Crores while the Government spent only Rs. 1,846 Crores. This puts the average cost of one vote at Rs.4,923.

Moreover, the provincial and federal elections spent an estimated Rs. 6,221, in which candidates and their supporters spent Rs. 4,595 Crores while the Government spent Rs. 1,626 Crores. This keeps the average cost of one vote for federal and provincial level elections at Rs. 4,040.
The trend of extravagant spending in Nepal’s elections is negatively influencing the electoral integrity of Nepal. Moreover, the lack of access to equal funds creates a disparity among competing candidates. The practice of high spending in election campaigns can put electoral accountability at risk by giving much power to financers.

Evidence suggests that candidates spending more money on election campaigns are likely to win in the elections. Winning candidates spent Rs. 2.13 crore on an average in contrast to Rs. 1.49 crores spent by the runner up candidates. The election observation committee (EOC) terms this money driven electoral system of Nepal to be ‘elite captured’. Supporting EOC’s claims, Dr Sachin Ghimire, the Founder Editor of New Angle: Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy says, “The seats for candidacy in elections are already reserved for the already powerful and influential politicians while the marginalization of other people continues.” This situation has been created despite the election code of conduct regulating the expenditure of each candidate in their election campaigns.

The regulation of public funding in Nepali elections is crucial to maintaining electoral integrity. As Nepal does not provide state funding for election campaigns. A draft bill supporting the government funding of election campaigns was rejected in the parliament.

Candidates cross the limits of spending set by the Election Commission and the silence hour before 48 hours of elections is often violated by the majority of the candidates. Such a situation can only be made better with practical mechanisms of election regulations implemented.

A crucial factor for making elections more transparent in Nepal is voter education. Voters should be aware of their rights and responsibilities which will allow them to rightfully exercise their right to vote in an appropriate manner. Invalid votes can be minimized with effective voter education.

To avoid the rampant corruption situation, the authority of candidate selection should not only be limited to the party headquarters, the decentralized candidate selection process will increase the chances of candidates being selected based on their credibility and merits, which will limit the prevalence of buying candidacy according to the election observation committee of Nepal. Furthermore, election observers of Nepal, recommend the temporary police during elections to be trained and recruited for monitoring the obedience of election code of conduct as well, in their respective voting centers.


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