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UN envoy to Nepal calls into question June polls unless political consensus reached soon

UN envoy to Nepal calls into question June polls unless political consensus reached soon

Amid violence in the Terai region of southern Nepal, Maoist combatants leaving their cantonment sites and a continuing lack of agreement among the country’s political parties, the United Nations envoy to the Himalayan country today warned that June’s scheduled elections may have to be postponed unless some form of consensus is reached “very soon.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, Ian Martin, who heads the UN Political Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), also acknowledged the “striking difference” between the relatively small number of Maoist arms given up for registration and the large number of combatants in the seven main cantonment sites.

“Unless a consensus can be reached very soon on the electoral arrangements for the constituent assembly election then the intention to hold that election by mid-June will be called into question,” he told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, adding that Nepal’s eight main political parties are currently discussing the issue of the electoral system.

“The chief election commissioner has stated publicly and for the political parties that the legislative basis for the elections needs to be in place very soon if the time-table is to go forward. Now already the process has begun, the updating of voter rolls has already taken place in much of the country but there isn’t yet a final decision on the electoral system.”

Turning to the issue of the registration of Maoist arms and combatants, as stipulated under the November peace agreement that also calls for Government troops to be confined to their barracks, Mr. Martin acknowledged the discrepancy between over 30,000 combatants but less than 3,500 weapons registered.

“There hasn’t yet been a definitive statement on the part of the Government…there certainly is a striking difference between the number of weapons registered, a little less than 3,500 and the number of combatants, over 30,000,” he said.

“There’s undoubtedly going to be a continuing argument as to whether the numbers do or do not show that the Maoists have complied with their commitments to register all their weapons. The UN can’t make a definitive judgment, we can only make available the information as to what has been registered to the Government for it to scrutinize and…that’s what they’re doing now.”

Last week, Mr. Martin announced that the first stage of registration of Maoist arms and weapons had been completed at seven main cantonment sites, but he also expressed “grave concern” because some combatants had left these areas. UNMIN has also called on the Government and the Maoists to cooperate in improving conditions at these sites.

The Security Council established UNMIN late last month to assist with the follow-up to the landmark Nepalese peace deal, reached between the Government and the Maoists, and also to support this year’s planned elections in the impoverished country where 10 years of civil war killed around 15,000 people and displaced over 100,000 others.