Sunday, February 13, 2022, Kathmandu:
Stakeholders have emphasized that it is possible to implement the decision of the Supreme Court to grant voting rights to Nepali citizens living abroad.
In the first of a series of policy dialogues organized by the Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) on Sunday, stakeholders said that it was possible to exercise voting rights through the use of technology. “If a Nepali has an identity in any country, he/she should be given the right to vote. A study has also been done by the Election Commission in this regard,” observed former Chief Election Commissioner Nilkantha Upreti. “There is a court order; but it is not being implemented,” he said.
According to Mr Uprety, in coordination with the Election Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepalis living abroad can be included in the voter list. “If a photo and fingerprints are taken while making a passport, the same information can be obtained by the Election Commission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Prof. Achyut Wagle, Associate Dean of Kathmandu University School of Management, was of the view that the right to vote of a citizen remains until the passport and citizenship are relinquished. “Politics is taking place over the statistics of Nepalis living abroad. It has been said that 4 million people are staying abroad. This is serious issue. It has a huge impact on management,” he said. He further added “Remittances have greatly contributed to the national economy’s ability to maintain macroeconomic stability, nutrition, access to primary education, and urbanization. Those who contribute in this manner should not be deprived of the right to vote.”
Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi said that the State had no option but to implement the decision of the Supreme Court, which in 2074 BS had decided to give voting rights to Nepalis living abroad. “The constitution does not discriminate between citizens. Now we are in the world of technology; it sets no boundaries. And technology has made it possible for people to exercise their voting right,” he said. His view was that there is inadequate political will to implement this decision, for which there is need to create pressure on a larger scale.
NPI Chairman Khagendra Dhakal, in his opening remarks, mentioned that the State should implement the decision made by the apex court in the interest of 56 percent of the households that rely on remittances. Citing the example of Mexico, Indonesia, and Iceland, some 115 countries have developed voting policies for citizens working abroad. That should be our basis,” he said.
NPI Board Member, Shuru Joshi, who facilitated the program, said that if the country relies on the migrants’ resources (ie, notes) to sustain the economy then they should also be concerned with enabling the migrants to have a say in elections (ie, cast votes), for which pressure should be increased on the political parties, for example, by NGOs.
Representatives of migrant worker entities from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and India, Dharam KC, Sapna Basyal, and Ram Bahadur Khadka respectively, and Laxman Basnet, general secretary of the South Asia Trade Union Coordinating Committee were positive about supporting the NPI in helping formulate the necessary policies to ensure their right to vote. Similarly, Sita Ghimire, Hari Thapa, Barun Ghimire, and Radhika Regmi Pokharel on behalf of the organizations directly concerned with migrants suggested that the government should formulate necessary policies to speedily and effectively implement the decision of the Supreme Court.