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CJ-led Government-30

Issue 41, October 13, 2013

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


I can see that the elections to a new constituent assembly (CA) are going to happen on November 19, 2013. The CPN-Maoist is leading the dissident group but most of them have been at a loss what to do next. It has been almost sure that Nepalis are going to vote for one candidate or another or one party or another in the elections to a new CA scheduled for the November. Thus, the political issue of whether the elections would be held or not have been resolved. Now, the question of the economics of the elections has to be asked and see how to resolve it. The spenders are the political parties, and their candidates in the election campaign, then the government in providing the security to the candidates, election officers, and voters in general for holding elections without any troubles, and finally, the Election Commission (EC) in managing the holding of the elections. Now, let us try to figure out how much money these three agencies would spend on the elections, and from where the money comes.


According to the Election Commission, six thousands one hundred and forty seven (6,147) candidates have been qualified for the elections to be held on November 19, 2013. Of them, one thousands were the independent candidates, and the rest were the party-affiliated candidates. Eleven candidates were disqualified for various reasons. One hundred and eighty four candidates withdrew their nominations from the Election commission offices. One candidate is a third gender.


According to the Election Code of Conduct published by the EC, each candidate can spend up to one million Nepalese rupees on the elections. If every candidate follows the Election Code of Conduct, the total amount to be spent on the elections would be 6,147 million rupees.


However, one local newspaper quoting the Madheshi leaders has said that any candidate in Madhesh will spend at least Rs 10 millions on the election campaign. Each candidate has spent at least Rs 300,000 even to register her/his nomination at the Election Commission Office. Each candidate has led a large procession of youths with musical bands to the Election Commission office for registering her/his nomination.


During the election campaign, most of the candidates will use the dummy election symbols, and use a number of vehicles in addition to the legally permitted two vehicles. They also distribute T-shirts, and other items to the voters to woo them to vote for the candidates. They will spend at least one thousand rupees per day on each youth they deploy for the election campaign. They will use a fleet of motorbikes for the election campaign, according to the local news.


However, the Election Commission has repeatedly announced that candidates should not distribute T-shirts, pens, copies and any other items with election symbols on them; they should not hold any dinner even during the Dasain festival for the purpose of the election campaign, should not use vehicles and so on more than permitted by the Election Code of Conduct.


Where this 6.147 billion rupees go.


Candidates are not supposed to post their posters on the private walls, public walls or on the walls of temples and shrines without the consent of the owners if they follow the Election Code of Conduct or if the EC enforces the Election Code of Conduct. So, candidates might not need to spend a lot of money on printing, distributing and then posting election posters on the walls of private houses and so on.


Candidates cannot use more than two light vehicles for election campaigning and so on at their constituencies. They cannot charter aircrafts for any purpose except for the candidates in the remote districts. Hiring two vehicles and buying fuel for running these two vehicles in the constituencies where the roads are available won’t cost much to the candidates.


Then what is the use of one million rupees any candidate can spend on the election campaign following the Election Code of Conduct set by the EC.


Most probably, candidates use some of the money for publicity through the local FM radios. Currently, each district has a number of FM radios. Candidates can use these FM radios to reach the voters in their constituencies. They can buy the time of the FM radios for the election campaign in the constituencies.


However, each candidate will be spending money on keeping the cadres for two months. Each candidate needs to feed them, and give them pocket money even if they are the party cadres. Candidates have to be moving around their constituencies with their cadres. They need to visit each house in their constituencies to convince the voters to vote for them. Consequently, candidates and their cadres will spend the major portion of one million rupees they are suppose to use for the election campaign on local eating places and tea-drinking places. Tens of millions of rupees will be spent on food and drinks at each constituency during the coming two months. The money thus spent will support the local economy.


Each candidate will spend a lot of money on holding a mass rally at each constituency. Each mass rally at the constituencies will not cost millions of rupees as it costs in Kathmandu but it will cost at least hundreds of thousands of rupees. Each candidate will hold small rallies that will cost even less.


The government spends a lot of money on security.


The government is hiring a term police to provide the security during the elections. If the government hires 50,000 new recruits for the security, the cost will be Rs 30,000 per recruit for uniform and shoes. The total cost for uniforms and shoes alone will be Rs 1,500,000,000 for 50,000 temporary police. Salaries of Rs 1,500,000,000 will require keeping new recruits for two months at Rs 15,000 per month per recruit. The total amount required for hiring 50,000 recruits for two months would be Rs 3 billions.


The government may spend another Rs 3 billions on allowances to the regular and armed police for keeping them at the constituencies. The government pays daily and traveling allowances to State employees when they need to work at the places other than their duty stations.


The government also needs to pay for the Nepal Army to deploy at the constituencies. According to the local media report, the Nepal Army has already ask the government for Rs 3 billions for spending on sending the Nepal Army for the security.


The Nepal Army is not for confronting the dissident political cadres but to transport and keep the ballot boxes, and ballot papers safely at each constituency. So, the elections to a new CA are not going to be held at the gunpoint, as some dissident political leaders like to portrait.


The EC also spends a chunk of the election budgets.


The EC says that it is going to print 30 millions ballot papers: 1.5 millions for voting for candidates (the direct elections), and another 1.5 millions for voting for political parties (for proportional representation).


Each constituency will have a separate ballot paper with the names of all candidates contesting for the seats of a new CA. Voters will vote for the candidates of their choice. So, 240 constituencies will have two hundred and forty different ballot papers for voting for the candidates.


A single ballot paper will do for the proportional representation. This single ballot paper will have the names and symbols of the political parties that have registered at the Election Commission office in Kathmandu for the proportional representation in a new CA. Voters need to vote for one of the political parties of their choice. Each party will have its representation in a new CA following the number of votes it has received.


The printing cost of each ballot paper has been reported as Rs 5.18, according to the news published in the ‘gorkhapatra’ of October 5, 2013. The total cost of printing 30 million ballot papers will be Rs 155.4 millions. The cost of paper of each ballot paper will be ten times the printing cost. The cost of paper of 30 million ballot papers will be Rs 300 millions. The total cost of ballot papers will be Rs 455.4 millions.


Then, the EC needs thousands of ballot boxes. The EC has not said whether the EC will use the previous ballot boxes or buy new ones. The cost of ballot boxes will be in millions of rupees, too if the EC needs to buy but even using the previous ballot boxes, the EC will need to spend some millions of rupees on repairing the ballot boxes.


The EC needs to use the helicopters to transport the ballot papers and ballot boxes to the constituencies. One-hour flight of an army helicopter cost about Rs 100,000. If the EC uses two hundred flying hours of helicopters, it will cost Rs 20,000,000. Then, the EC needs to use the ground transport for taking the ballot papers and ballot boxes to each polling booth. The means of the ground transport will be vehicles wherever roads are available but human porters or mules in the areas where roads are not available. The EC spends millions of rupees on the ground transport of ballot papers and boxes.


The EC pays daily and traveling allowances to the thousands of election officials working at the 10,017 polling booths, as the EC sets up such a number of polling booths. The cost will be in hundreds of millions of rupees.


The EC has spent millions of rupees on updating the voters’ lists. The EC has decided to distribute voter’s cards with pictures on them. The EC paid for the cards, and for the staffs distributing the voters’ cards at the districts. However, the news in the ‘gorkhapatra’ of October 11, 2013 has it that he EC has cancelled the tender notice for printing the voters’ identity cards.


Where does the money come from?


The donor agencies have been providing the EC with cash and kinds through the government of Nepal for holding elections. The donors also have provided the government with the resources through the ‘peace fund’ Nepal has set up for completing the peace process in Nepal.


China has provided the EC with Rs 163 millions ($1.63 millions x Rs 100: current exchange rate = Rs163 millions) worth of the election materials: mainly the ballot papers and office materials for holding the elections scheduled for November 19, according to the Xinhua news.


India has provided the EC with a number of vehicles in addition to other materials such as tents and so on, according to the media reports.


How the political parties do get the money.


Political cadres have already started off collecting donations from the business houses, industrialists, and so on. The Nepalese business community has complained a number of times that they have been coerced into paying donations to the political party cadres. Members of the business community have been asking for paying the donations through banks to make them transparent. However, political leaders have not been serious about making the donations to the political parties so transparent.


Thus, most of the money political parties spending on the elections would be the local money forcibly collected from the business community.


The two main stakeholders such as political parties and the government in the upcoming elections would be spending on the elections almost equally. Each of them will spend more than six billion rupees. The Election Commission will be spending considerably less than the political parties and the government on the elections.


The government of Nepal and the Election Commission will be spending the money received from the donor community while the political parties will be spending the money of the business community assuming foreign donor agencies will not fund the political parties.


October 11, 2013

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