After 14 hours of extensive debates and intermissions in between, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on late Thursday night (Jan 25) unanimously passed the final reading of the amended House of Representatives election bill by 213 votes with four abstentions.
The bill which was amended by the scrutiny committee of the NLA seeks to extend the enforcement of the bill by 90 days after its publication in the Royal Gazette instead of immediate enforcement after its publication as specified in the original version of the bill.
In other words, it means that the election will be postponed by up to 90 days, from initial schedule in November to February 2019.
During the second reading vote on Section 2 of the bill regarding the timing of the enforcement of the bill, 196 votes were cast in support of the 90-day extension of the enforcement of the bill against 12 votes with 14 abstentions.
During the marathon debate, some legislators proposed 120-day extension, but this was rejected by most of the NLA members.
Earlier, political parties cried foul against the amended MP election bill, saying that it will further delay the election by up to three months.
Proponents of the amendments claim that the extension of the enforcement of the election bill would give more time for political parties to prepare themselves for the election and, at the same time, give more time for voters to study the election bill so they understand their rights.
Other highlights of the amended MP election bill include:
-The new voting time for the next election will be from 7 am to 5 pm instead of the traditional standard time from 8 am to 4 pm which has been in force for decades.
-The sanction against those who fail to exercise their voting right – that is they will be barred from being appointed political officials and local administrators.
-The holding of entertainment activities during electioneering with the amount of the spending on entertainment activities not exceeding 20 percent of the campaign fund of each respective political party.
After this, the NLA chairman will forward the amended bill to the Constitution Drafting Committee and the Election Commission for final check on the constitutionality of the bill. If there is no objections, the NLA will forward the bill for the King’s endorsement.
However, if the CDC or the EC disagree with the amendments, the NLA chairman will set up a tripartite committee to review the draft bill before forwarding the bill to the NLA to vote.