Kathmandu: Nepal’s plan to hold elections in November faces “considerable” challenges and time is running out to organize the poll, the United Nations said.
“Time is diminishing,” said UN envoy Ian Martin. Political parties must fix a date, agree on an electoral system and ensure the vote is carried out free of “intimidation and violence”.
The elections, agreed under a November 2006 peace accord that ended a decade-long insurgency, are for an assembly that will draw up a new constitution for the Himalayan kingdom and decide the fate of the monarchy. The rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which has returned its fighters to camps and joined the interim government, has threatened a new campaign of street demonstrations because of delays to the poll.
The US, which lists the party as a terrorist organization, questions the Maoists’ commitment to the peace process and says members continue to extort money and abuse human rights.
“Maoist assurances that they are peace loving democrats have been proven hollow daily by the violent actions of their cadre,” James Moriarty, US ambassador to Nepal, said on Tuesday. “If the Maoists want people’s trust and support, they must win it through democratic competition and free elections, and not through violence.”
The rebels, who follow the ideology of China’s former leader Mao Zedong, fought for 10 years to overthrow the monarchy and replace it with a republic, in a civil war that killed 13,000 people. Under the peace accord, the fate of King Gyanendra’s dynasty will be decided at the first meeting of the new constituent assembly.
The polls should have been held this month, although the electoral commission said it needed more time to update voter lists. The eight parties, which form the interim government, announced last month that the elections will be held by the third week in November. They haven’t set a date.
Legislation must be passed to define the electoral system and establish constituencies, said Martin, according to a statement on the UN’s website. Minority groups must also be included in the dialogue, he added.
“Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits, women and others require a reasonable degree of assurance that their legitimate demands for representation are being met,” he said.
More than 40 ethnic groups are represented in Nepal’s population of 28 million and some have protested in the southern Terai region in recent months demanding proportional representation and a degree of autonomy. The government has pledged the new constitution will provide greater rights for ethnic minorities.
The home ministry, police and Maoists must hold talks, “as a matter of priority” to ensure public security during electioneering, Martin said. He called on Maoist leader Puspa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, to ensure the affiliated Young Communist League operates “in accordance with the law”.
A UN election monitoring team arrived in the country on its first visit this week to assess proceedings, Martin said.
Under the peace accord, the Maoists returned more than 30,000 fighters to camps and handed in 2,855 weapons for storage under UN supervision. The second stage of monitoring begins this week, to ensure no minors are serving with the rebel People’s Liberation Army, Martin said.