Carter Center Urges an End to Election-Related Violence in Nepal
18 March 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In Atlanta: Deborah Hakes, +1 404 420 5124
In Kathmandu: Darren Nance, +977 1 444 5055/1446
The Carter Center’s international election observation mission in Nepal has observed the pre-electoral environment in the country for the past 14 months. The Center is encouraged by the level of electoral preparations and campaigning presently taking place, as this represents a marked increase from the two previous election periods in June and November 2007. Additionally, following the signing of the United Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF) agreement, the security situation has improved significantly in the Terai, though many districts remain fragile. All across the country, the Center’s long term observers report that the people of Nepal want to participate in the constituent assembly election and expect that a successful election will bring sustainable peace, democracy, and prosperity to Nepal.
However, political parties and the government need to continue and increase activities that reassure voters of their commitment to the April 10 election. Following the two previous postponements, the Nepali public has grown skeptical about the government’s genuine commitment to the April date. Additionally, the Center is deeply concerned by reports of continued Maoist and Young Communist League (YCL) violence in the hill and mountain districts, as well as announced plans to disrupt the election by armed groups in the Terai. The Center strongly condemns these activities and notes their potential to significantly hamper the electoral environment, decrease voter turnout, and call into question the election’s credibility.
With only 22 days remaining before the constituent assembly election, the Carter Center’s international election observation mission in Nepal puts forward the following recommendations in order to ensure a credible and successful electoral process. Specifically, The Carter Center:
- Calls on all parties to sustain their commitment to the April 10 constituent assembly election and increase peaceful campaigning efforts particularly at the village level;
- Urges an immediate cessation of Maoist and YCL violence, threats, and harassment, which have increased in recent weeks and which threaten the credibility of their party, the election, and the peace process;
- Notes concern over reported plans by the Maoists and other parties to mobilize up to 200 supporters per polling station on election day, given the potential for intimidation of voters and conflict between parties;
- Requests the government to fully implement the agreement signed with the UMDF as well as other agreements, including swift action on the provision to create a conducive environment for talks with the armed Madhesi groups in order to ward off their potential to act as spoilers to the process;
- Encourages moderate Madhesi leaders to use their authority to publicly and privately insist that the armed groups cease violence intended to disturb the election;
- Calls on the government to strengthen its support for the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force in order to facilitate their ability to provide a secure electoral environment, and to implement appropriate security measures in consultation with local community leaders, while sustaining their commitment to the protection of human rights;
- Advises the political parties, the government, and the Election Commission to act strongly on their shared obligation to respect and vigorously enforce the electoral code of conduct;
- Suggests a public and transparent agreement regarding the rules of conduct for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Nepal Army (NA) during the electoral period in order to address fears that either group will attempt to leave their areas and influence the process;
- Advocates for continued intensive voter education in order to familiarize voters with the purpose of the constituent assembly election and the new electoral system;
- Suggests that the Election Commission and the government clearly and in a coordinated manner explain to the public the post-election transition plan, including the length of time needed to process the election results, the process for forming a government following the election, and the procedure for initiating the work of the constituent assembly;
- Encourages domestic observer networks to rigorously train their observers in order to ensure the presence of an impartial and effective domestic observation effort;
- Calls on the international community to use its collective voice to consistently condemn election-related violence and violations of the electoral code of conduct.
“Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.”
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.
The Carter Center conducts election observation activities in a nonpartisan, professional manner in accordance with applicable Nepali law and international standards for election observation as set forth in the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. The Center coordinates closely with other international and domestic observer delegations and publishes its statements on its Web site: http://www.cartercenter.org. The goal of the Center’s mission in Nepal is to demonstrate international support for and provide an independent assessment of the constituent assembly election process in order to help to consolidate sustainable peace and multi-party democracy in Nepal.