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Nepal's Leaders Must Ensure Polls Are Free, Fair

Nepal's political leaders must ensure polls are free and fair, Ban Ki-moon says

7 April 2008 - Nepal's political leaders are responsible for ensuring that this Thursday's elections for a Constituent Assembly are free, fair and credible, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he urged the country's people to grasp the "historic milestone" in the peace process.

In a video message taped today, Mr. Ban said it is his "fervent hope" that the polls are a success, especially given the efforts so far by Nepalese political leaders to reach this point.

"They now have a critical responsibility to ensure that voters can freely exercise their democratic right in a secret ballot, without fear of violence, intimidation or manipulation," he said. "So much hinges on the success of the election, and the acceptance by all of the will of the people."

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Nepal) issued a joint report yesterday warning that while momentum was building towards the elections, violent clashes and acts of intimidation involving supporters of rival political parties were still marring the campaigning.

Mr. Ban said the election is "an opportunity not only to reinvigorate democracy, and uphold the centrality of human rights, but also to further cement the peace process in Nepal... This Constituent Assembly election is a historic milestone for the people of Nepal. You have waited long and patiently for this day to come."

He also noted that the international community is closely following the election process, including through the presence of hundreds of election observers.

Once elected, Assembly members are tasked with drafting a new constitution in Nepal, which has emerged from a decade-long civil war that claimed an estimated 13,000 lives until the Governments and the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006.

ENDS

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