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“We are treated like ATMs”

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Despite a Supreme Court verdict in 2018, Nepal’s electoral commission has yet to act to allow the diaspora to vote.

Four years ago, the six-point directive from the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered the government to make the necessary arrangements to allow Nepalese citizens living and working in foreign countries to vote in elections at diplomatic missions and universities in the country. country abroad. He also ordered the government to prepare a list of Nepalese who have not renounced their Nepalese citizenship or obtained the citizenship of the countries in which they live.

Admittedly, only 45 out of more than 200 countries currently have procedures for allowing mail-in ballots. But for a country whose constitution is considered more progressive than previous ones, this is a glaring omission.

No less than 14% of the total population of Nepal lives abroad. Many are migrant workers in India, the Gulf, Europe or East Asia. Others are students in Australia or the United States. The approximately $7 billion they send home each year is keeping Nepal afloat during the current economic crisis. In fact, Nepalese remittances abroad account for almost a third of Nepal’s GDP, second only to Kyrgyzstan in Asia.

Overseas Nepalese are also exposed to a diverse global perspective of work experience and education. They have more data points to know what Nepal needs, how possible solutions could be viable, who can implement solutions and vote as informed citizens. And yet, they do not have the right to vote.

“It’s not that the Nepalese parties aren’t aware of this situation,” said a student whose family members work for the government in his country. “But they are afraid that our votes will be against failed politicians who have ruled Nepal for so long.”

Nepali officials privately admit they fear there will be a lot of cheating if postal votes are allowed. But if the Philippines can do it, there’s no reason Nepal can’t, and that indicates a lack of political will.

Overseas Nepalese all have access to the internet, so electronic voting would be a simple, efficient and fraud-proof solution. All it needs is a law allowing mail-in voting.

“Our contribution to Nepal has been ignored, we don’t want to return to Nepal until our hard work is valued“, said a Nepalese worker here who, like others, did not want to be identified. The government just sees us as ATMs.

Back home, Nepali Congress leader and former foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat indicated that postal voting may not be possible for the foreseeable future. He reportedly said recently: “This may not be possible in local elections, nor in the next legislative elections. It would be a great achievement if we were able to make this possible within the next five years. »

Despite this inability to exercise their right to vote, most are worried about the political disarray and economic crisis in Nepal. They closely and constantly follow the developments in Nepal on the Internet, and express their concern and frustration.