Top UN envoy to Nepal optimistic that delayed elections will be successful

Top UN envoy to Nepal optimistic that delayed elections will be successful

The top United Nations envoy to Nepal says he is optimistic that twice-delayed Constituent Assembly polls will be staged successfully on 10 April, given the desire of ordinary Nepalese for peace and democracy and the political leaders’ demonstrated capacity for dialogue.

Briefing the press at UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Nepal, Ian Martin, also commended the members of the seven-party Government alliance for reaching consensus after several months of crisis and striking a 23-point agreement last month on cooperation regarding the elections.

But he said the inclusion of Nepal’s traditionally marginalized groups in the electoral process is central to ensuring that the polls are staged successfully.

Mr. Martin said that “a significant section” of the Madhesi, Janajati and Dalit communities felt left out of last month’s agreement, although he noted the alliance had indicated its willingness to hold dialogue with the leaders of those communities and with armed groups operating in the country’s eastern and central Terai regions.

“It ought to be possible to reach a basis of agreement for the participation of all groups in the Constituent Assembly election because there is a common desire that such an election should be held,” Mr. Martin said. “But to achieve that, the dialogue needs to be urgent, it needs to be real and there needs to be a commitment to implement agreements reached with those groups.”

The elections for the Assembly – which is supposed to draft a new constitution for Nepal in the wake of the end of its armed conflict – were originally scheduled to be held in June last year but had to be postponed because of continuing mistrust between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

The eastern and central Terai has also been the focus of increased violence, including the killing or abduction of local officials, journalists and others, in recent months.

The Security Council voted unanimously today to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) by six months through 23 July and reiterated its support for the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the decade-long civil conflict between the Government and the Maoists in which an estimated 13,000 people were killed.

Mr. Martin, who is also head of UNMIN, added that for the mission to complete its tasks in the next six months, it was important that more durable and long-term arrangements are established, particularly regarding arms monitoring, so that its activities can be phased out.