Nepal polls likely in Nov, says former US prez

the News Desk in Kathmandu/The Kathmandu Post
Asia News Network

Kathmandu (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Former US president Jimmy Carter on Monday said there is general political consensus that Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in Nepal will not be possible, as stipulated, in June.

Carter, who is in Kathmandu on a four day-visit, made the statement after holding talks with President Ram Baran Yadav, Chairman of the Interim Election Government Khil Raj Regmi, top leaders of the major parties and Election Commission officials. With election-related preparations yet to be complete, Carter said the polling date is likely to be set for November.

"I think there is general consensus, which I share, that June elections will not be possible at this point," Carter told a press conference here. "My guess, as a foreigner who is here for three-four days, is that elections will be scheduled for after the monsoon season. The third week of November would be a possible time."

The 88-year old leader pledged that his organisation, the Carter Center, would monitor the elections, while he vowed to visit Nepal to observe the polls.

Carter visited Kathmandu in April 2008 to observe the first CA elections and was recently criticised by leaders from the Nepali Congress and the Community Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) for endorsing the election as "free and fair" on the very day of polling, without making a critical assessment.

Responding to the criticism, Carter said that Carter Center staff are stationed in countries months before elections to conduct 'real' observations. "There was certainly some intimidation by the Maoists and others, which we acknowledged in our report," he said. "But, in general, my view was that the election adequately represented the will of the Nepali people. It was not perfect but in my judgment it was honest and fair enough to say that it was a successful election."

Before wrapping up his visit, Carter said the chief justice-led government was "set up for a temporary basis" and would expire after elections are over. He urged agitating parties to not resort to violence and intimidation to obstruct elections. He expressed serious concern over the ongoing intimidation and violence, including the kidnapping of officials involved in voter registration by the Maoist hardliners - the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN_Maoist - and suggested that any interference in the voter roll and election-related activities should be dealt with as a law and order problem. He said the CPN-Maoist should either support the election process by coming to a compromise or be prevented from interfering by using police action. Carter, however, stated that breakaway Maoist leader Mohan Baidya assured him on Sunday that his party would not adopt violence.

"My hope is that if he [Baidya] persists in trying to keep people from registering as voters or holding successful elections, the people who interfere should be arrested and prevented from illegal activities," said Carter.

The former US president, meanwhile, lauded recent political achievements, including the inclusion of women and marginalised groups in the erstwhile CA, and stressed that the concerns of marginalised communities need to be addressed in the political process. The Nepali people can be proud of the country's transition from war to peace and described that it is a "great achievement" to see former warring parties adopt peace and democratic principles, he said.

On Monday, Carter held talks with Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad and suggested that India play a constructive role to encourage elections in Nepal.

Carter is leaving for Myanmar on Tuesday, where he will meet President Thein Sein and National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Carter has also said that Nepal should not interrupt the movement of Tibetan refugees under pressure from China. "There was tacit agreement in the past that refugees coming out of Tibet would not be abused when they arrive here. But the Chinese government is putting pressure on Nepal to interrupt this movement of people," he said. "I think they [Tibetan refugees] should have the right to go where they wish." Carter expressed hope that the Nepali government will not abuse or interrupt the freedom of Tibetans under pressure from any other country.