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Nepal Electoral Outlook Needs Frank Assessment

Nepal: UN envoy calls for frank assessment of electoral outlook

Nepal's politicians and civil society must conduct a clear assessment of why elections for its Constituent Assembly have had to be postponed twice this year, the senior United Nations envoy to the country said today, calling on all sides to outline a realistic road map for the future.

Ian Martin, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Nepal, told a press conference in Kathmandu that the UN Mission to the South Asian country (UNMIN) is willing to expand its mandate to help implement the peace process, but will only do so if requested by the people of Nepal.

He stressed that credible Constituent Assembly elections cannot take place until the peace process is on a more solid footing.

"This requires not just the setting of a date, but agreement on a road map which will ensure that there is not yet another failure to hold the election on whatever new date is agreed," Mr. Martin said, in his first press conference after returning from New York, where he briefed the Security Council on the latest developments.

"Despite the best efforts of the Election Commission, with which UNMIN has worked closely, two dates set for the election have come and gone. It is now time for a frank analysis by Nepali politicians and civil society of why this has been the case, and what are the requirements for a successful electoral process to go forward."

The elections were initially to be held mid-year but then delayed until 22 November. But the interim Government announced last month that the polls were being postponed again to an as yet undetermined date because of ongoing disputes between the Seven-Party Alliance that comprises the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M).

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Once elected, the Constituent Assembly is supposed to draft a new constitution for Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people were killed during the decade-long civil conflict that formally ended when the Government and Maoists signed a peace accord last year.

Mr. Martin told reporters that there are several areas in which UNMIN can help the peace process if the Government and the other political parties are willing to show their support.

These include improving public security at a time of rising concerns among Nepalese about this issue, setting up a commission to investigate disappearances, and better managing the process of reforming the country's security sector, especially the role of Maoist combatants.

UNMIN's current mandate expires on 22 January, although Mr. Martin has previously said the Security Council is likely to extend the mandate.

The envoy voiced dismay at the recent increase in unresolved killings and abductions across Nepal, "whether attributed to armed Madhesi groups, Maoist cadres, or local disputes. Nepal has lived far too long with violence and intimidation, and I appeal again at this season for a commitment to tolerance and non-violence, but also for an end to impunity."

But he added that there had been some recent positive signs, including the efforts within the Seven-Party Alliance to reach a compromise and the respectful spirit of recent parliamentary proceedings.


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