Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Election in Nepal

Indulged in what some call "pseudo civil war" and others call "people's war" for more than 13 years, after witnessing a terrible massacre of the royal family and numerous protests and demonstrations, it seems like the small south Asian country of Nepal is headed towards peace.

Nepali people will be able to vote after a long time, as no elections have been held since 1999 due to political instability and unrest mainly due to Maoist's war.

Nepal's government and Maoist former rebels have set today for the elections for the national assembly expected to prepare a new constitution and formally decide the fate of nearly 240-year-old Nepalese monarchy and federalism. This election is the focus of the 2006 comprehensive peace accord with the Maoist rebels, allowing the former rebels to join the political mainstream.

The elections will elect a representative body who will be in charge of drafting a new constitution for Nepal. This will be first time that the people of Nepal will be provided an opportunity to speak out and express their views on the future direction of the country, which many believe will be prove very fruitful.

An election for a constituent assembly will be held today after having been postponed from two earlier dates-June 10, 2006, and Nov. 22, 2007. Nepal's election commission said that there are around 17.5 million eligible voters. A huge number of national and international agencies will be monitoring the election, including the Carter Center from the U.S. Former U.S. president and co-founder of the Carter Center, Jimmy Carter, is in Kathmandu leading a 60-member international election observer mission. During his stay in Nepal, Carter is scheduled to meet leaders of political parties, election commission officials, civil society representatives and members of the election observation groups. The Carter Center has been deploying its long-term observers to Nepal since March 2007

A constituent assembly election is needed in the Himalayan country of Nepal, suffering from political unrest and violence, to restructure the nation according to the aspirations of the People's Movement-II, to reach a decision on the future of monarchy, to ensure democratic rule of law, to ensure proportional representation in all the bodies of state, to institutionalize the people's sovereignty and to create an atmosphere for all the citizens to exercise equal rights and to bring peace back to a nation which a few decades ago was stable, safe and leading towards development.

One of the main challenges in Nepal has been to balance the many competing demands for political inclusion while maintaining peace and preparing for a unique electoral event. Nepal's population is an incredible blend of people from diverse social, economic, and political backgrounds, and after more than a decade of civil war there is a high level of mistrust. This wariness has often led the chief political parties to delay the original timetable for the constituent assembly elections even as they have more or less been campaigning for people's support.

Since these are the first of their kind in Nepal, the constituent assembly elections have required labor-intensive logistical preparations by the election commission and a lot of support from the United Nations and others. The biggest challenge after the election will be to figure out how to make the constituent assembly function in ways that continue to solicit the views of Nepali citizens. Many think of the constituent assembly election as a starting point to determine who gets to the negotiating table and who will bear the responsibility for drafting a new constitution that describes the basic principles and form of government for Nepal.

This constituent assembly election is of great interest to people like me who are currently abroad. Even though I will not be able to vote, I will be desperately waiting to see the outcome and am interested to see if all the parties and the royalists will accept the outcome of the election. International leaders and diplomatic missions have been regularly urging everybody to create an environment for fair polls and accept the results.

One of the biggest fears for all is that the Maoist rebels who have finally joined the mainstream politics will not accept the results of the elections. It is feared that if they do not accept the results, another revolt and civil unrest might be on the way. Nepal's situation has been a key concern for thousands of students currently studying abroad. Many claim that it is often difficult to focus on study or work when they hear about demonstrations and bombings in Nepal. The number of Nepalese youth going abroad for studies has more than doubled in the last five years due to political instability in the country. However, it is my understanding that most are willing to return to Nepal and help in the transformation and development if the country is politically stable and safer. Political instability in Nepal has hampered its tourism industry greatly, which is the biggest source of the Himalayan country's economy. I am very hopeful that this peace process will flow smoothly and restore peace and political stability in Nepal.


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