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Nepal: UNSG Calls for a Timely, Credible Constituent Assembly Election

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The UN Secretary-General requests that the parties to the peace process improve their record for implementing commitments for a credible Constituent Assembly election to take place on time in Nepal.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned the government of Nepal that the failure to ensure a credible Constituent Assembly (CA) election within a realistic and well-planned period could have a serious impact on the unity of the eight parties and their ability to function in unison within the existing coalition. In his quarterly report released at the UN Headquarters in New York on 24 July 2007, Ki-Moon also urged all concerned parties to make efforts to maintain the positive momentum1.

The report was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1740 (2007) in which the Council established the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), in response to the formal request by the government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), for United Nations’ support for the peace process.

Among recent challenges, Ki-Moon cited the postponement of the Constituent Assembly election, which was originally scheduled for mid-June but is now slated for 22 November because regulations governing the process were not ready in time. A successful election is the “central element” of the country’s democratisation process, the report stresses. “Renewed and expanded efforts will have to be made to sustain the successful trajectory of the peace process,” Ki-Moon stated in his latest report on Nepal, where a peace accord signed last November formally ended a decade-long conflict that killed an estimated 13,000 people.

Although Nepal’s peace process started with a single focus on ending an armed conflict between Maoists and the state, it became more complex as a result of assertive campaigns by traditionally marginalised groups, who insisted that they should be fairly represented in the process. In the Terai region along the border with India, the campaign had been particularly disruptive, with continuing violence by some armed groups. Other groups, such as the Janajati, Indigenous Peoples and Dalits, have been insisting on adequate representation and asking for a fully proportional electoral system. The political parties, however, have designed a “mixed” system, with representation based on half constituency and half proportional representation, legislating a complex quota formula to guarantee representation of the above mentioned groups, as well as women, in the proportional part of the election.

In a press conference held on 26 July 2007 by the Department of Public Information in New York, the issue of Nepal having a political and security climate conducive for holding elections was raised by the Secretary General’s Special Representatives (SGSR) and the Head of the UNMIN, Mr. Ian Martin. They highlighted that although necessary legislation had been passed by the interim legislature, considerable challenges remained.2

Mr. Ian Martin also said the security situation throughout the country needed to be addressed through political cooperation among political parties at the local level. In order to ensure respect for the right to campaign and to avoid voters’ intimidation, political parties would have to cooperate among themselves. The government and the Election Commission were anxious to maximise the international presence during the election and invited as many international observers as possible. The United Nations was expanding its own presence in the districts, but full deployment could only be completed when the monsoon ended in September.

Ki-Moon suggested to the parties involved in the peace process to improve their record of implementing the commitments that they have agreed to. The report states “the significance of the far-reaching process of democratisation that Nepal is going through cannot be overstated. The successful holding of the Constituent Assembly election in a manner that meets the aspirations of the majority of the Nepalese people is the central element of this process.”