In 2019, Nepal Transition to Peace Institute (NTTP-I), with support from UNDP Nepal’s Electoral Support Project and Social Cohesion and Democratic Participation project, conducted a series of activities over a five-month period to encourage political parties, civil society and government actors from the national to the municipal level to analyze Nepal’s electoral practices and explore their roles in promoting peace and social cohesion by increasing public trust in elections.
The events provided the participants with a common platform to share their experience and make suggestions for increasing public trust in elections as a tool for promoting social cohesion and peace. Former Chief Election Commissioner Mr. Bhojaraj Pokharel, former Election Commission Secretary Mr. Madhu Regmi, NEOC General Secretary Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, former Election Commissioner Dr. Birendra Prasad Mishra, former Speaker of House of Representative Mr. Daman Nath Dhungana, former minister and secretary Mr. Vidyadhar Mallik, Birgunj-based senior journalist Mr. Chandrakishore Jha and Dhangadhi-based senior journalist Mr. Umid Bagchand were engaged as facilitators.
Over 800 national, provincial and local actors participated in a series of consultative meetings, workshops and dialogues to find key problems and explore local remedies. The participants then shared the learnings from the field with the central leaders of major political parties, parliamentary committees’ chairpersons and civil society leaders. There was consensus among the participants that the degree of physical violence in elections has declined remarkably in the past few years because of better security, use of voters’ ID cards with photographs, and use of modern technology.
The dialogues also brought to light the existing challenges in the electoral system and electoral practices, including limited financial transparency, communalism, regionalism, and misuse of state funds, which were together eroding the level of trust in elections.
To address the abovementioned problems, the participants suggested some immediate actions that could be taken at the local level: logistical management, increase registration in voters’ rolls and enhance voters’ education. Next, the participants proposed that the operation of elections can be localized through devolution of ECN’s authorities to provincial level and creation of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms. In the third step, the entire electoral system, policies and constituencies can be revised in order to reduce unhealthy competition in elections from the center to the local levels.
All the learnings from across these activities that were conducted throughout Nepal were presented at a National Workshop that took place in Kathmandu. Most of the participants proposed that the Election Commission regulate electoral financing and campaign financing; and the Parliamentary committee take initiatives for revising electoral laws and policies to increase public trust in elections.