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UN envoy calls on Nepalese to turn election delay to their advantage

UN envoy calls on Nepalese to turn election delay to their advantage

Special Representative Ian Martin
Nepal’s political parties should use the delay to the holding of Constituent Assembly elections to bolster the peace process by tackling its weaknesses and agreeing on a road map for ensuring that credible polls can take place, the senior United Nations official in the South Asian country said today.

Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told a press conference in Kathmandu, the capital, that the postponement should not be viewed as a disaster, but as an opportunity for the political parties, civil society and other Nepalese to try to bridge their differences and work more closely together.

“This requires dialogue not only among the seven parties [in the interim Government], but with marginalized groups, civil society and all democratic forces,” he said.

The elections were to be held on 22 November, but last week the interim Government announced that they were being delayed because of ongoing disputes between the Seven-Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M).

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

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council have both voiced disappointment at the delay and its impact on the political aspirations of the Nepalese.

Mr. Martin added today that there needs to be greater cooperation at the local level to ensure more effective governance and public security and reduce communal tensions, a renewed commitment by all to non-violent and democratic political activity, an independent monitoring of peace process commitments, and a concerted effort to address the future of Maoist combatants and the security sector.

“The United Nations is playing and will play the roles that are asked of it,” he said, stressing the importance of the Seven-Party Alliance sticking together.

Asked by a reporter about who deserved blame for the election postponement, the Special Representative said: “It’s not for the UN to blame anyone and indeed I hope that others, the political parties, will concentrate not so much on deciding who is to blame as on deciding what is to be done now, and, as I said, sustaining their Alliance in order to go forward.”

Mr. Martin said he believed “the current crisis has come about… as a reflection of deeper differences in perception and approach, and as a result of weaknesses in the overall management of the peace process.”

He cited the lack of progress within the Government in discussing the future of Maoist combatants, ensuring adequate commitments in the cantonments and starting serious talks on security sector reform as all contributing to Maoist concern that the Government is not fulfilling its commitments.

The reluctance of the Maoists to ensure that its Young Communist League stops using intimidation and violence is eroding public confidence in the CPN-M’s willingness to enter a democratic process.

“Meanwhile, many of Nepal’s traditionally marginalized groups remain concerned that commitments made to them are not being fulfilled. There is frustration by all communities in the Terai, and indeed across Nepal, about the poor state of public security… and without greater cooperation among the parties and civil society at the local level, the risk of communal tension and violence remains considerable.”