In the absence of clear legal provisions, there is confusion about whether or not suspended legislators can vote in presidential elections.
The Law on the Election of President and Vice President defines members of the Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies as voters.
Of the total 334 seats in the Federal Parliament, 275 in the House of Representatives (HoR), 59 in the National Assembly, one is currently vacant.
There are currently 333 lawmakers in Parliament after the Supreme Court annulled the seat of Rastriya Swatantra Party Chairman Rabi Lamichhane as a lawmaker. Lamichhane was elected to the Chitwan-2 HoR in the general election on 20 November.
Nepalese Congressman Tek Bahadur Gurung remains suspended as a corruption case against him is pending in the courts, but he has been sworn in as a legislator.
Nagarik Unmukti Party lawmaker Arun Kumar Chaudhary has been released from prison after President Bidya Devi Bhandari renounced his sentence. But the Chamber has been notified of his arrest only. The law is not clear on whether Chaudhary can vote in the presidential election in such a situation.
According to the Law Related to the Election of the President and Vice President, the Election Commission seeks lists of sitting legislators from the Secretariat of the Federal Parliament and the seven secretariats of the provincial assemblies to finalize the list of voters.
The Election Commission then prepares a voter list from the lists of legislators and sends it to the Teller’s Office.
Since the Rules of the House of Representatives mentions the search for lists of sitting legislators, it has raised the question of whether to consider suspended legislators as sitting legislators or not. But the Electoral Commission has not made any decision in this regard.
“One seat in the House of Representatives is vacant,” Sharma Paudel, spokesman for the Election Commission, told Setopati Shaligram. “Among two others, one is suspended. The House has been notified of the arrest of the other legislator during a House meeting. The Commission will make a decision on those two. After that, the Teller’s Office will publish the final list of voters.”
The Election Commission has yet to reach a decision on whether or not to allow suspended lawmaker Tek Bahadur Gurung to vote.
“Since those suspended cannot do any work, the Commission is looking into whether they cannot vote either,” Sharma said. “It should not be imagined that those who are in prison, abroad or sick will not come to vote. We will finish the voter list by tomorrow. No official decision has been made so far.”