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Nepalese assembly polls back on track, says UN mission leader

Nepalese assembly polls back on track, says UN mission leader

Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Nepal
Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections, scheduled to be held in less than a month, are on track after previous delays, the head of the United Nations mission to the South Asian country said today as he pledged the world body’s support in efforts to ensure the ballot is free, fair and credible.

Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Nepal and the head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), told a press conference in the capital, Kathmandu, that the country “is very close to achieving an historic step in its democratic transition” when its voters go to the polls on 10 April.

“An inclusive Constituent Assembly, elected in a free and fair atmosphere, will provide the democratic basis for decisions to shape the future of this highly diverse country, as well as for a government with the broad legitimacy necessary to address the challenges of peace and development,” he said.

Once elected, Assembly members are supposed to draft a new constitution for Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people were killed during the decade-long civil war that ended when the Government and the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006. The polls were supposed to be held last year, but had to be delayed several times because of political disputes.

Mr. Martin stressed that UNMIN would work very closely with the national electoral commission and had already dispatched almost all of its electoral advisers to the country’s various regions and districts.

“The focus now is on ensuring that the election takes place in an environment that enables all parties to campaign and organize freely anywhere in the country, and allows the people of Nepal to cast their votes in accordance with their free will and conscience, without intimidation or infringement of their rights.”

This means that the ceasefire code of conduct and the comprehensive peace agreement must be observed by all parties, as well as the arms monitoring agreement, starting with the restriction of the Nepal Army and the Maoist army to their designated locations.

He added that while efforts to reach out to groups or individuals with grievances should continue, the international community would have no sympathy for any group that carried out acts of violence in pursuit of its ends or attempted to disrupt the electoral process.

The UNMIN chief also told reporters that a memorial ceremony will be held next week to honour the 10 people who died when a mission helicopter crashed in eastern Nepal on 3 March.